CHAPARHAR, Afghanistan, (Reuters) – Two separate blasts in eastern Afghanistan killed seven civilians and one policeman on Saturday, officials said.
Violence is at its highest level since U.S.-led forces toppled the Taliban in 2001, with attacks spreading from the south and east to the outskirts of Kabul.
The United States is considering new policy options, including a counter-insurgency push, and is sending more troops to the country.
A suicide car bomb attack killed five civilians and a policeman at a checkpoint in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar, a district governor said.
The bomber, who was targeting a foreign forces convoy in Chaparhar district, was identified and fired on by the soldiers, district governor Hasan Khan told Reuters. But the bomber managed to turn his car around and detonate his explosives at a nearby police checkpoint, he said. “The bomber killed one policeman and five civilians, including three children, who were sitting on a passing tractor,” said Khan.
Five police officers were wounded, he said.
The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) confirmed in a statement that there had been an attack on a temporary police checkpoint and said its soldiers provided immediate medical attention to the victims.
In a separate incident, a roadside bomb struck a passing car in the southeastern province of Khost, near a Muslim shrine where hundreds of people were gathering to celebrate the Afghan New Year, the provincial police chief told Reuters.
Two civilians were killed and four wounded in the blast, said police chief Abdul Qayum Baqizoy. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the Khost attack but told Reuters those who were killed were border police.
Separately, a soldier from the NATO-led force was killed in a “hostile incident” in the south of the country on Friday, the alliance said in a statement, the fifth foreign soldier to die in two days.
Insurgents often target Afghan and foreign forces with suicide and roadside bomb attacks in an attempt to weaken the Afghan government and drive some 70,000 international soldiers from the country.
The majority of victims in insurgent attacks are innocent bystanders. Last year, more than 2,100 civilians were killed in Afghanistan, a 40 percent rise on the previous year, the United Nations says.
The United States is sending up to 17,000 more soldiers to Afghanistan over the coming months to help tackle the insurgency and provide security for the presidential election in August.