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Suicide Blast Kills More Than 20 Afghans, Many Of Them Children

KABUL -- A suicide bomber in a bazaar has killed at least 17 civilians, most of them children, and four police officers in Afghanistan's southern province of Oruzgan, police said.

The bomber targeted a police vehicle in a bazaar in the district of Deh Rawud, according to the provincial police chief, Juma Khan Himat.

Himat said 37 more civilians and five police were wounded in the attack, adding that the death toll could rise.

He blamed Taliban insurgents for the attack, part of a rising tide of violence in Afghanistan, where the militants largely rely on such tactics as part of their campaign against foreign troops and the Afghan government.

The Interior Ministry in Kabul reported that 24 people, four of them police, including a senior police were killed in the attack.

More than 800 civilians have been killed in Afghanistan so far this year, according to the United Nations and Afghan officials.

Growing insecurity has added to the rising frustration of many Afghans nearly seven years after U.S.-led troops overthrew the Taliban's government after it refused to hand over Al-Qaeda leaders behind the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

The violence comes despite the increasing presence of foreign forces currently numbering more than 70,000. Top Taliban as well as Al-Qaeda leaders are still at large.

It has prompted some Western politicians to warn recently that the country could slide back into anarchy.

Since 2006 when the Taliban are thought to have regrouped, Afghan and foreign troops have been locked in almost daily clashes with the militants who have some sanctuary in the lawless tribal regions of Pakistan.

In one of the latest such clashes, five Pakistani Taliban were killed and 13 more wounded after they infiltrated a remote district in northeastern Nuristan on July 12, Interior Ministry spokesman Zemarai Bashari said.

The fighting was continuing on July 13 and locals were helping the police to defend the district, he said.

The Defense Ministry said dozens of insurgents were killed and dozens more wounded in a counterattack of the Afghan National Army in Nuristan the same day. It said only four soldiers were wounded when the insurgents attacked the soldiers' posts. NATO said its soldiers and Afghan forces were locked in heavy fighting against the militants in an area of neighboring Kunar. There were casualties on both sides, the alliance said in a statement, without elaborating.

Also on July 13, a roadside bomb killed a soldier from the U.S.-led coalition in the southern province of Helmand, the U.S. military said in a statement.

The soldier was killed when his vehicle struck the device during insurgents' attack on a joint patrol of Afghan and coalition forces, a spokesman for the military said separately.

"Thirty-five militants were killed in a security patrol of Afghan National Security Forces and coalition forces in Helmand Province [on] July 12 and 13," the spokesman said.

Taliban spokesmen could not be immediately reached for comment about any of the reported incidents.