17 Afghans killed in suicide blast

A suicide bomber on a motorbike struck a joint Afghan-NATO patrol in the town of Khost on Wednesday, killing 17 Afghans and causing coalition casualties, officials said.

The blast in the eastern town close to the border with Pakistan, where Taliban and other Islamist insurgents fighting US-led troops have strongholds, also wounded 37 people, hospital officials said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility but interior ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi blamed the “enemies of Afghanistan”, a phrase commonly used by Afghan officials to refer to the Taliban.

The Taliban, leading a 10-year insurgency against President Hamid Karzai’s western-backed government, have begun the annual fighting season with a series of attacks which saw US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta admit that violence was rising.

Sediqqi said the blast was aimed at a combined Afghan and coalition patrol passing through Khost.

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