A Pakistani suicide bomber detonated himself in a crowded restaurant Sunday, killing 15 people and wounding 24, including an Afghan special forces commander and a district chief, the provincial governor said.
The restaurant, located in the southeastern province of Paktika, was destroyed, said Gov. Mohammad Akram Akhpelwak. The attacker was believed to be targeting the military commander and the district chief, he said.
The suicide strike was the 102nd in Afghanistan this year, attacks that have killed 241 people, said Maj. Luke Knittig, a spokesman for NATO’s International Security Assistance Force
Akhpelwak said the suicide bomber was from Pakistan, but he gave no further details. Afghan officials say the majority of suicide bombers there come from neighboring Pakistan.
Violence has risen sharply in Afghanistan this year, and Taliban militants have launched a record number of suicide and roadside bombs. Militants launched only about 20 suicide bomb attacks last year.
Meanwhile, one NATO soldier and an estimated 57 insurgents were killed in four separate attacks in violence-plagued southern Afghanistan, the former Taliban stronghold where the Afghan government wields little power.
Insurgents attacked NATO-led forces Saturday near the Tirin Kot district of Uruzgan province. NATO returned fire and called in aircraft, killing approximately 50 insurgents, NATO’s International Security Assistance Force said Sunday. One NATO soldier was also killed. The nationality of the soldier was not released.
In the Panjwayi district of Kandahar province on Saturday, insurgents fired on Afghan army and NATO soldiers. A retaliatory air strike killed approximately five insurgents, said the ISAF statement. Three NATO soldiers were injured.
In neighboring Zabul province, about 50 Taliban fighters attacked the Arghandab district chief’s compound on Saturday and clashed with police for about an hour, leaving one Taliban dead and three wounded, said district chief Fazal Bari. He said the police suffered no casualties.
On the main Kabul-Kandahar highway in Zabul province, Taliban fighters ambushed a police convoy Saturday night and exchanged gunfire with police, said Zabul highway police commander Jainani Khan. One Taliban was killed.
Bush consults with Karzai
President Bush, meanwhile, called Afghan President Hamid Karzai Saturday evening to assure him that the U.S. will reiterate its commitment to Afghanistan at the upcoming NATO summit in Latvia, Karzai’s office said. The summit starts Tuesday.
The two presidents also discussed proposed plans for an upcoming meeting involving tribal leaders from Afghanistan and Pakistan. Karzai had proposed the idea during a White House dinner with Bush and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.
Karzai hopes the meeting, called a jirga, can help solve the problem of militants crossing from Pakistan to launch attacks in Afghanistan.
The U.S. military on Sunday said it was spending $34.5 million to build four new regional hospitals and the refurbishment of the National Military Hospital. It is also spending $70 million on first aid kits for the Afghan army.