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Afghan authorities raise death toll to 20 in motorcycle bombing

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KABUL, Afghanistan -- Afghan authorities raised the death toll in a suicide bombing Monday to at least 20 people, including three coalition soldiers they identified as Americans.

The attack occurred when a bomber aboard a motorcycle rammed into a convoy of NATO and Afghan forces carrying out a joint patrol in the eastern city of Khowst, local authorities said. Taliban insurgents claimed responsibility for the attack, which occurred about 8:30 a.m. in the middle of a bustling plaza.

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Abdul Jabar Nahimi, governor for Khowst province, said the blast killed 10 Afghan civilians and six Afghan police officers, in addition to the three Americans and an Afghan interpreter. More than 60 other people were injured, including three Afghan police officers.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization had confirmed the deaths of the coalition soldiers and the Afghan interpreter in an earlier statement, but did not immediately release the nationalities of the soldiers killed.

Khowst is one of Afghanistan’s most dangerous provinces, perched on the border of Pakistan’s volatile tribal areas that serve as sanctuary for some Afghan insurgents. In December 2009, the province was the scene of a suicide bombing of a CIA base that killed seven the intelligence agency’s employees and contractors.

Joint patrols have become one of the most controversial aspects of the uneasy partnership between Washington and Kabul, as both sides prepare for the handoff of security responsibilities to Afghan forces by the end of 2014. So-called insider attacks -- members of Afghan security forces killing their coalition counterparts -- have claimed the lives of more than 50 U.S. and coalition troops this year.

In reaction to the jump in insider attacks, NATO earlier this month temporarily suspended joint operations with Afghan security forces, allowing them only if they were approved by a high-ranking regional commander. Though the restrictions remain in place, U.S. officials say cooperation on joint operations has resumed.

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-- Aimal Yaqubi


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