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The scene of the NATO airstrike in Logar province. AP Photo/Ihsanullah Majroh/PA

Afghan civilians killed in suicide bombings and NATO airstrike - report

Taliban claims responsibility for three suicide bombers in Kandahar.

AFGHANISTAN HAS BEEN targeted by suicide attackers in the south of the country, while a NATO airstrike in the east struck a wedding today.

Three suicide attackers blew themselves up in the largest city in southern Afghanistan, killing 22 people and wounding at least 50 others in a dusty marketplace that was turned into a gruesome scene of blood and bodies.

In the east, Afghan officials and residents said a pre-dawn NATO airstrike targeting militants killed civilians celebrating a wedding, including women and children.

A NATO forces spokesman said they had no reports of civilians being killed in the overnight raid to capture a local Taliban leader.

Also in the east, NATO said two service members were killed in a helicopter crash. The coalition did not disclose any other information about the crash, but a senior US defence official at the Pentagon said two American pilots were killed in the crash in Ghazni province.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to disclose details of the crash, said there was indication of enemy activity in the area at the time.

Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi claimed responsibility for the attack in Kandahar, the capital of Kandahar province and the spiritual birthplace of the insurgency.

In the past two years, tens of thousands of US-led coalition troops have flooded Taliban strongholds in the south, and have largely succeeded in boosting security there. But the Taliban have proven resilient, continuing to conduct suicide attacks and targeted assassinations of pro-government figures, opening up new fronts in the north and west and stepping up attacks in the east.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned the attack on innocent civilians, saying it proved the “enemy is getting weaker because they are killing innocent people.”

The explosion occurred about 5km from the main gate of the massive military installation run by the US-led coalition and roughly 500 metres from an Afghan military base.

One suicide bomber detonated a three-wheeled motorbike filled with explosives first, said Rahmatullah Atrafi, deputy police chief in Kandahar province. Then, as people rushed to assist the casualties, two other suicide bombers on foot walked up to the site and blew themselves up, he said.

Eight private security guards were among the 22 killed along a main road on the east side of the city, he said. The explosions left a bloody scene of body parts, shoes, soda cans, snacks and debris from three shops that were destroyed.

NATO strike

Meanwhile, a village elder said a wedding party full of civilians had been blown up in the NATO airstrike.

The head of the local council of Sajawand village, Mohammad Wali, said that a number of families had gathered in a house last night for a wedding party. An airstrike hit the house about 1am, he said.

“The house is completely destroyed. Everyone is shoveling to try to get the bodies out. Some of the bodies have no legs, no hands,” Wali said.

He said he had seen 18 bodies, including men, women and children. He said they were gathering up the bodies to take to the provincial capital as proof that civilians were killed.

Provincial Police Chief Gen Ghulam Sakhi Roogh Lawanay said there was no wedding party. He said the gathering was a meeting of Taliban commanders in the province. “It was the senior commanders of Baraki Barak and Logar,” he said. “The special forces came with the Afghan forces and killed them,” he said.

Associated Foreign Press