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Car bomb kills 5 children, Dutch soldier

A suicide car bomber targeting a NATO convoy Friday in southern Afghanistan killed 10 people, including five children and a Dutch soldier, amid a fresh wave of violence that also left more than 24 militants dead, officials said.
Afghan policemen stand by passing NATO v
NATO vehicles patrol in Kandahar, Afghanistan, on Friday, the same day that two suicide attackers blew themselves up near NATO convoys in southern Afghanistan.Ahmed Zalmy / AFP - Getty Images
/ Source: The Associated Press

A suicide car bomber targeting a NATO convoy Friday in southern Afghanistan killed 10 people, including five children and a Dutch soldier, amid a fresh wave of violence that also left more than 24 militants dead, officials said.

In the east, another coalition member was killed in a battle early Friday.

The car bombing in Tirin Kot in Uruzgan province targeted a NATO convoy but killed the children as well as the Dutch soldier, said Dutch Defense Minister Eimert van Middelkoop.

Four Afghan men were also killed, said Gen. Abdul Qasem Khan, the provincial police chief.

Three Dutch troops and seven Afghan civilians, including two women, were wounded when the bomber drove a car out of a side street in Tirin Kot and detonated the bomb near a Dutch armored car, officials said.

Some 2,000 Dutch troops are involved in a reconstruction mission in southern Afghanistan. It was the second time a Dutch soldier was killed here and the seventh Dutch fatality since the mission began in August. Three died in air accidents, one in an armored car crash and another in an apparent suicide.

"This cowardly attack shows what kind of enemy we are faced with," said Van Middelkoop. "An enemy who just wants to kill, whether it be soldiers or children."

Purported Taliban spokesmen have warned civilians to stay away from military convoys, but suicide bombings commonly kill or wound far more civilians than the intended military targets.

2,300 dead this year
Violence has spiked in Afghanistan in recent weeks. More than 2,300 people have died in insurgency-related violence this year, according to an Associated Press count based on figures from U.S., NATO, U.N. and Afghan officials.

Much of it has been focused on the southern province of Helmand, where a coalition and Afghan patrol was attacked by militants near Sangin district Thursday. The troops fired back and called in airstrikes.

"More than two dozen enemy fighters were estimated killed during the nine-hour battle and there are no reports of Afghan civilian injuries," a statement said.

In neighboring Zabul province, coalition and Afghan troops "killed a few militants" and detained three others Friday in a raid on a compound in Shahjoy district, the coalition said. During a brief firefight at the compound, two civilians were caught in the crossfire. One teenager died of gunshot wounds and another boy was wounded.

Also in Zabul, militants attacked a joint coalition and Afghan patrol with machine-gun fire and rocket-propelled grenades near the village of Baylogh in Daychopan district Thursday. A "few enemy fighters" were killed in the five-hour firefight, a statement said.

In eastern Afghanistan, a coalition service member was killed in a clash in Paktika province Friday, the coalition said. The soldier's nationality was not released, but most troops in the east are American.

Elsewhere, U.S.-led troops fired at a group of militants who were setting up a rocket in Shah Wali Kot district, Kandahar province, killing several militants and destroying their vehicle, another coalition statement said.

NATO OKs more trainers
In Belgium, the NATO allies agreed to deploy more trainers with the Afghan army, aiming to build it up so it can eventually replace the 50,000 international troops here.

But the offer fell short of requirements and NATO's top diplomat joined Afghanistan's defense minister in urging a greater commitment from allied governments.

NATO commanders are seeking to deploy almost 50 teams with about 50 military experts each who can integrate into Afghan units and provide in-field training as they battle insurgents.

At a meeting of NATO defense ministers, France offered to form three such units. Italy, Canada, Latvia, Poland, Romania and Slovakia also stepped forward. NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said those offers would bring the total to almost 30.

Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak said an eventual handover to local forces was the only way to sustain long-term security in the country. "We do not want to be a permanent burden on the international community," he told reporters. "We want to stand on our own two feet."

The Afghan army currently numbers about 50,000 and but is due to increase to 70,000 by the end of 2008. Training facilities are being expanded to accommodate up to 3,000 new recruits monthly, in contrast to about 600 at the moment.

However, NATO officers say the army can field only about 20,000 soldiers at any one time, and that low salaries and poor morale contribute to a 40 percent desertion rate from the force. NATO planners acknowledge international troops will need to stay for the foreseeable future. The alliance has raised its troop levels to almost 40,000 and the United States maintains about 13,000 troops in a separate counterinsurgency force.