At least 10 people were killed and 15 seriously wounded when a bomb destroyed a bus taking Afghan workers to a U.S. military base in the southern city of Kandahar. The attack came as coalition forces intensified an anti-Taleban offensive in the southern provinces.
Local police say the bomb was apparently hidden in the packed bus.
It exploded during the workers' early-morning commute to a coalition airbase just outside the provincial capital, Kandahar.
Coalition officials say the blast was clearly directed at Afghans working with international forces, and they believe Taleban insurgents carried out the attack.
It was the latest in a series of deadly attacks on civilians, soldiers and officials in recent weeks, part of a broader Taleban offensive launched earlier last month.
U.S. officials confirmed that more than 10-thousand Afghan and coalition soldiers are being deployed across Southern Afghanistan.
U.S. military spokesman Sergeant Chris Miller described the deployment as a massive counter-insurgency operation.
"Operation Mountain Thrust will put heavy pressure on insurgent sanctuaries and known areas of operation in order to disrupt their ability to intimidate the Afghan people," he said.
This is the largest military offensive in Afghanistan since a U.S.-led invasion ousted the Taleban regime in 2001.
U.S., British, Canadian, and Afghan soldiers are targeting the Taleban's traditional stronghold in four southern provinces, including Kandahar, Helmand, Uruzgan and Zabol.
The insurgency has reportedly been able to re-establish a commanding presence throughout this region. Local officials say the Taleban's ability to recruit new members is on the rise, as faith in the U.S.-backed central government deteriorates.
U.S. officials say Operation Mountain Thrust has been designed to help reverse that dynamic.
Afghan and coalition forces are sweeping into areas previously considered too dangerous for ground combat operations.
Sergeant Miller says the new effort also includes a number of local development projects.
"These operations are the precursor to follow-on operations that will strengthen good governance in the region, improve security, and enable reconstruction and economic development," he said.
U.S. authorities say there is no scheduled end to the latest operation. U.S. forces stationed in the South are scheduled to pull out of the region in the next few months as a larger NATO deployment takes over regional security operations.