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Eight Afghans Killed In Suicide Attack

Helmand Province is the heart of Afghanistan's opium trade.

Helmand Province is the heart of Afghanistan's opium trade.

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (Reuters) - A suicide bomber killed eight Afghans, many of them truck drivers supplying Western troops, in a strike on a fuel station in southern Helmand Province, an Afghan district chief said.

The head of U.S. Central Command for the Middle East and Afghanistan said this week that insurgent attacks have reached their highest level since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, and warned that worse was to come.

Abdul Mohammad, chief of Helmand Province's Girishk district which straddles Afghanistan's main highway, said 21 people were wounded in the overnight suicide strike. Eight trucks and four other vehicles were destroyed, he said.

Helmand is the heartland for Taliban militants and the main center of Afghanistan's opium trade, which supplies nearly all the world's heroin.

Washington has deployed some 10,000 additional U.S. Marines in the province in recent weeks, one of the main waves of reinforcements that will more than double the U.S. force in Afghanistan from 32,000 at the end of 2008 to an anticipated 68,000 by the end of this year.

The province is also home to about 8,000 British troops.

Militants have made a point of targeting trucks that supply foreign forces, who have to import supplies across great distances.

A message posted on a Taliban website said a Taliban fighter had carried out the attack.

Despite the increasing number of foreign troops, violence has surged in Afghanistan in the past two years. The Taliban have regrouped and managed to expand the size and scope of their attacks.