updated 8/3/2006 9:31:15 AM ET 2006-08-03T13:31:15

A suicide car bomb in a crowded market killed 21 civilians in southern Afghanistan Thursday and two roadside bombs in the same province killed a Canadian soldier and wounded four others.

The soldier’s death was NATO’s fourth fatality since taking command of southern Afghanistan from the U.S.-led coalition Monday.

Thirteen people were injured in the blast at the market in Kandahar province, provincial government spokesman Dawood Ahmazi said.

A spokesman for NATO-led Canadian forces in Kandahar, Maj. Scott Lundy, said a NATO patrol was moving through the area where the blast occurred, but no troops were hurt.

“They were close enough to hear the blast,” he said, adding that it was impossible to determine if the convoy was the target.

Some of the victims were children, Interior Ministry spokesman Yousef Stanezai said.

Soldier killed
Meanwhile, a pre-dawn blast killed Cpl. Christopher Jonathan Reid and wounded a fellow soldier patrolling a key highway on the outskirts of Kandahar city, Lundy said.

Another explosion in the same spot three hours later wounded three other Canadian soldiers on the same patrol. All the wounded soldiers were expected to return to duty, Lundy said.

Reid was the 18th Canadian killed in Afghanistan since 2002.

In another part of the volatile south, police backed by NATO warplanes killed 10 suspected Taliban, a police chief said.

The Taliban militia has stepped up attacks this year, sparking fighting with foreign and Afghan forces that has left more than 900 people, mostly militants, dead since May.

Police acting with NATO air support killed 10 Taliban fighters in Helmand province late Wednesday, and were engaged in battle there Thursday with militants trying to recover the bodies from the battlefield, local police chief Ghulam Rasool said.

The clashes happened in mountains near the village of Thakhatul in Garmser district. Rasool was transferred to Garmser and given an unusually large contingent of 200 police to fight the Taliban after insurgents briefly took over the district last month.

In the southern Zabul province, 12 highway police manning a checkpoint abandoned their post overnight, said Yousef Stanezai, a spokesman for Interior Ministry.

Stanezai said the men defected as the police were preparing to arrest them for extorting money from motorists and hijacking a fuel truck.

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