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Suicide Bomber Targets NATO Convoy in Southern Afghanistan

A suicide car bomber targeted a NATO convoy in southern Afghanistan leaving at least three Afghan civilians dead and several others seriously wounded. Correspondent Benjamin Sand reports from Islamabad.

The attack on the NATO convoy occurred early Sunday in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar.

Afghan officials say the bomber was among the dead and at least 13 people were injured. No soldiers were killed in the attack.

Local witnesses say NATO soldiers opened fire after the bombing, with several reports suggesting the shots may have killed additional people.

NATO spokesman Major Luke Knittig says the troops only used their weapons after a second vehicle neared the convoy "in a suspicious and aggressive fashion."

"When that vehicle did not respond to hand and arm signals and to warning shots they engaged the vehicle, killing the driver," Knitting says.

Kandahar has been rocked by a series of suicide bomb attacks in recent days. There have been at least four in the past week.

NATO officials say the number of suicide bombings is on the rise throughout the country.

According to the most recent NATO figures, there have been more than a hundred this year, roughly five times as many as in 2005.

The bombings have killed around 240 people, including 17 international soldiers.

Overall, 2006 has been one of the bloodiest years in Afghanistan since a U.S.-led force ousted the Islamist Taleban regime in 2001. Almost four-thousand people have been killed in fighting this year.

The worst clashes have been in and around the Taleban's traditional stronghold in southern Afghanistan, including the group's former headquarters in Kandahar.