KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (Reuters) - Four Afghan civilians and one foreign soldier were killed on Monday when a suicide car bomber hit a convoy of NATO-led troops near the southern city of Kandahar, officials and witnesses said.
Hours later, a car packed with explosives blew up outside the main police station in the city, the birthplace of the ousted Taliban in Afghanistan and the expected next target of NATO troops fighting to oust the militants.
The second Kandahar blast killed one police officer and wounded 16 people, including nine police, said Fazl Ahmad Sherzad, deputy police chief for Kandahar province.
A Reuters reporter at the scene saw at least six vehicles badly damaged. Shattered glass littered the area and several buildings nearby were destroyed.
In the earlier suicide attack, several soldiers from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) were wounded in the attack on a road several miles from Kandahar airport, a provincial official said.
The airport is a key base for a major offensive by ISAF and Afghan forces launched in neighboring Helmand province two weeks ago to retake the town of Marjah from the Taliban.
The Afghan civilians were killed after they pulled their car over on the side of the road, a common act in rural areas to allow convoys of foreign forces to pass, witnesses said.
“Four civilians were killed and one wounded in the attack,” said Mohammad Ibrahim, a doctor in a Kandahar hospital.
Foreign troops cordoned off the road leading to the site of the strike, witnesses said, adding that a coalition helicopter evacuated the wounded ISAF soldiers.
A bridge close by was badly damaged, a Reuters cameraman and reporter said.
In a statement on their website, the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack on the convoy, saying at least 11 foreign soldiers were killed.
A spokesman for the NATO-led force said one NATO soldier was killed in the blast.
Writing by Sayed Salahuddin; Editing by Bryson Hull and Paul Tait