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Afghanistan Bombings Kill 11 Civilians, 2 NATO Soldiers

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Bombings in southern Afghanistan have killed at least 11 civilians and two NATO soldiers.

Afghan officials say nine Afghans, including women and children, were killed when a roadside bomb exploded in the Maiwand district of Kandahar province Friday.  The blast destroyed a minibus. In neighboring Zabul province, officials say a suicide bomber dressed as a woman killed two people.

Elsewhere in the south, NATO says a bomb explosion killed two of its soldiers Friday.  The deaths bring the number of NATO soldiers killed since Monday to at least 21.

Violence has spiked in southern Afghanistan as Taliban militants step up attacks ahead of a planned military operation by NATO forces to secure Kandahar.

On Friday, NATO defense ministers meeting in Brussels said the alliance was making "measured progress" in Afghanistan, but that significant challenges remain.

The ministers released a statement saying success is not yet ensured, but that NATO has made modest gains in extending the reach of the Afghan government and marginalizing the Taliban insurgency.  The ministers cited military efforts in Helmand and Kandahar in the south.

On Thursday, the top NATO and U.S. commander in Afghanistan, U.S. General Stanley McChrystal, said efforts to secure Kandahar will move ahead more slowly than initially planned to ensure support from local tribal leaders and residents living in Taliban's spiritual homeland.

British Prime Minister David Cameron told British troops at a base in Helmand Friday that British forces can return home as soon as Afghans are ready to take over security.

Mr. Cameron was on his first visit to Afghanistan since he took office last month.  Britain has 10,000 troops in Afghanistan, the second largest foreign force after the United States.

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

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