In Afghanistan, officials say that a suicide bomber has killed at least 24 people, mostly civilians. At the same time, Western officials in Kabul say heavy fighting in the mountains of northeastern Afghanistan has killed nine American soldiers and a large number of Taliban militants. From neighboring Pakistan, Ayaz Gul gives more details.

Afghan authorities say the suicide bombing targeted a police convoy that was passing through a market in the southern province of Uruzgan. Most of the deaths, they say, occurred instantly.

Interior Ministry spokesman Zamary Bashari tells VOA that several policemen were killed in the attack, but a majority of the victims are civilians, including children. He says the bombing has wounded at least 40 people.

"We are working on the case to find out how it was conducted and the details. But it was a terrorist suicide attack targeting the security forces of Afghanistan," Bashary said.

Hospital sources say the death toll could go up because some of those being treated are critically wounded.

Taliban insurgents are blamed for being behind Sunday's suicide bombing.

Meanwhile, the interior ministry spokesman has confirmed that gunmen kidnapped a member of the Afghan parliament (Abdul Wali) and his driver in the eastern Logar province, but gave no other details.

Insurgent attacks have increased in Afghanistan this year, mainly targeting local and foreign security forces stationed in the country. The violence has left hundreds of people dead.

U.S.-led coalition forces have also stepped up anti-insurgent operations and military commanders say that they have also killed more than 400 Taliban militants in the past two months.

NATO and Afghan commanders say that June was the deadliest month for international troops since the U.S-led military operation began in Afghanistan in late 2001. They also say that militant bases on the Pakistani side of the border are also being used by Taliban and al-Qaida fighters for their attacks, particularly in border regions of Afghanistan.