KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A suicide car bomber targeting a NATO-sponsored reconstruction team killed four Afghan civilians, including a child, and wounded 31 on Thursday in southern Afghanistan, officials said.
Three civilian international members of the aid team — two men and one woman — were among the wounded, said Daud Ahmadi, a spokesman for the provincial governor. He said their injuries were not life threatening and did not know their nationalities.
The bomber detonated his explosives-laden vehicle Thursday morning as a convoy of a NATO Provincial Reconstruction Team passed by in Lashkar Gah, capital of Helmand province, Ahmadi said.
The blast ripped through the convoy of armored vehicles, knocking at least one over and charring others. The explosion also shredded nearby storefronts and damaged at least 17 civilian cars nearby, a provincial statement said.
Provincial Reconstruction Teams are joint international military-civilian units dedicated to aid projects to boost support for the Afghan government. They are sponsored by the NATO military coalition and there are 27 now operating in Afghanistan.
Afghan National Army soldier Dad Mohammad witnessed the attack while on patrol in the town.
"A car passed our vehicle and parked down the road," he said. "When the foreigners' vehicle was passing this road, it was targeted and there was an explosion."
A spokesman for NATO declined to comment on the attack, referring all questions to the Afghan provincial government.
A statement from the Ministry of Interior said the attack took place near an Education Department building, though Ahmadi initially described it as an aid office. The Ministry said the vehicles in the convoy were about 70 percent destroyed.
Helmand has been one of the most volatile areas in the Taliban insurgency's pushback against a U.S.-led initiative to bring southern Afghanistan under greater control of the central Afghan government.
Elsewhere, a rocket fired by Taliban insurgents killed a woman and her child in eastern Afghanistan.
Insurgents fired the mortar round during a battle Wednesday with Afghan army soldiers trying to clear militants from a stronghold in Kapisa province's Alasay district, said the provincial governor's chief of staff, Abdul Sabor Wafa.
President Hamid Karzai and NATO's commander for Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen, condemned the insurgents on Thursday for the civilian deaths.
Associated Press reporter Mirwais Khan in Kandahar contributed to this report.