LASHKAR GAH, Afghanistan (Reuters) - A Taliban suicide bomber blew himself up in southern Afghanistan on Friday, killing two children, local government officials said.
The attack came near the town of Sangin in the restive province of Helmand where mostly British troops are engaged in nearly daily firefights with Taliban insurgents. No foreign troops were wounded in the blast, a military spokesman said.
The Taliban leader in Helmand, Mullah Mansour Dadullah appeared in a video on Wednesday exhorting a group of around 200 insurgents to carry out suicide attacks to drive foreign forces from Afghanistan and overthrow the government.
At least 11 people, including women and children, were killed in a Taliban suicide attack on a police bus in Kabul on Tuesday and 30 people killed in a similar attack on an army bus in the capital on Saturday.
After suffering heavy casualties in conventional battles, Taliban rebels have grown increasingly reliant in the last two years on suicide attacks aimed at convincing ordinary Afghans their government and its Western backers cannot provide security.
Afghanistan is going through its worst period of violence since U.S.-led and Afghan forces toppled the Taliban in 2001.
In southeast Afghanistan, several civilians were killed in fighting between Afghan troops backed by U.S.-led coalition forces and Taliban insurgents, the U.S. military said.
Afghan leaders have repeatedly called on the nearly 50,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan to do their best to avoid causing civilian casualties as it saps support for the government and the presence of international forces.
The U.S.-led coalition and NATO-led forces in Afghanistan say they do their utmost not to kill civilians and blame the Taliban for launching attacks from within civilian compounds and from populated areas.
In the latest incident, the U.S. military said “several non-combatants were found dead, and several others found wounded” after a battle with insurgents in Paktika province.
Eight people were killed in the attack, said a local police official who declined to named, but he said it was unclear how many were Taliban insurgents and how many of them were civilians.
Afghan and coalition troops launched the operation to root out insurgents hiding in the Waza Khawa district, close to the border with Pakistan.
“While conducting a search of a compound in Waza Khawa district, Taliban fighters opened fire and threw several grenades at Afghan and coalition forces,” coalition spokesman Major Chris Belcher said in a statement.
Several coalition troops were wounded.
Afghan and coalition troops responded “with small-arms fire and precision-guided munitions” destroying the building and ending Taliban fire from within it.
“During the follow-on assessment, coalition forces found several adult males, an adult female, and one child dead and two children wounded in the building housing the militants,” the statement said.
“By hiding among innocent civilians, by waging a battle among women and children, the violent extremists have shown their utter disregard for the lives of the Afghan people,” Belcher said.