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Suicide Bomber Kills at Least 7 in Southern Afghanistan


Afghan officials say a suicide bomber has killed at least six civilians and one soldier serving with the U.S.-led coalition in southern Afghanistan.

The provincial police chief, Mohammad Hussein Andiwal, says the bomber targeted a convoy of U.S.-led coalition troops Friday as they passed through a crowded market in the town of Gereshk in southern Helmand province.

An Afghan interpreter and at least two children were among those killed. The dead soldier's nationality was not released.

Coalition forces say two other soldiers were killed during operations in Helmand on Thursday. There was no immediate claim of responsibility and the coalition did not reveal the victim's nationalities.

Meanwhile, in neighboring Kandahar province, hundreds of families were returning home Friday after Afghan and NATO forces began wrapping up an offensive against Taliban insurgents.

An Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman, General Mohammad Zahir Azimi, said at least 56 militants were killed in the operation that began Wednesday in Arghandab district. At least two Afghan soldiers were also killed.

NATO and Afghan forces were deployed to Kandahar province after local officials said hundreds of Taliban took over several communities earlier this week.

NATO spokesman Brigadier General Carlos Branco says Afghan and NATO forces did not encounter any large formation of militants in the area and only minor incidents occurred.

Separately, the French Foreign Ministry released a statement Friday, saying a kidnapped French businessman and his two Afghan companions have been released unharmed. Suspected Taliban militants abducted Johan Freckhaus on May 29, while he traveled on the road between Kandahar and Kabul.

The ministry also warned that travelers to Afghanistan face significant risks.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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