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Bomber Kills 16 Civilians in Southern Afghanistan

A suicide bomber blew himself up in a central Afghanistan market Thursday, killing at least 16 civilians and wounding more than a dozen.

Police say the attack occurred in the town of Dihrawud, in Uruzgan province. The area was crowded as shoppers and vendors gathered for a bazaar.

Police say three of those killed in the blast were children.

The attack comes a day after the United Nations said the number of civilians killed in war-related violence in Afghanistan reached its highest level last year since U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban in 2001.

In the report, the chief human rights officer at the U.N. mission in Kabul, Norah Niland, said 2,412 Afghan civilians were killed in 2009, two-thirds of them by anti-government militants.

The official said 25 percent of civilian deaths were caused by pro-government forces, including NATO and U.S. troops, a drop from the previous year.

Most of the civilian victims of insurgents died from a combination of homemade bombs and suicide bombings. Airstrikes accounted for 60 percent of the deaths caused by coalition troops.

Last year also saw the highest number of deaths among international forces, particularly for the United States and Britain.

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