Suicide car bomber kills six in Afghanistan

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The Independent Online

A suicide car bomb attack killed five civilians and a policeman at a checkpoint in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar today, a district governor said.

Violence is at its highest levels since US-led forces toppled the Taliban in 2001, with attacks spreading from the south and east to the outskirts of Kabul, forcing Washington to consider new policy options including a counter-insurgency push.

The bomber, who was targeting a foreign forces convoy in Chaparhar district, was identified and fired on by the soldiers, district governor Hasan Khan told Reuters.

But the bomber managed to turn his car around and detonate his explosives at a nearby police checkpoint, he said.

"The bomber killed one policeman and five civilians, including three children, who were sitting on a passing tractor," said Khan.

Five police were wounded in the attack, he said.

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) confirmed, in a statement, there had been an attack on a temporary police checkpoint and said its soldiers provided immediate medical attention to the victims.

There were no ISAF casualties caused by the incident, he said.

The provincial governor, Gul Agha Sherzai, said earlier the bomber had been targeting an Afghan police convoy.

In another incident, a soldier from the NATO-led force was killed in a "hostile incident" in the south of the country on Friday, the alliance said in a statement, the fifth foreign soldier to die in two days.

Insurgents often target Afghan and foreign forces with suicide and roadside bomb attacks in an attempt to weaken the Afghan government and drive some 70,000 international soldiers from the country.

But the majority of the victims in insurgent attacks are innocent bystanders. Last year, more than 2,100 civilians were killed in Afghanistan, a 40 percent rise on the previous year, the United Nations says.

The United States is sending up to 17,000 more soldiers to Afghanistan over the coming months to help tackle the insurgency and provide security for the presidential election in August.