KABUL: A suicide bomb attack targeting NATO and Afghan forces killed two foreign soldiers and 10 children who were heading home after school in eastern Afghanistan on Monday, officials said.

One policeman was also killed and 15 other children were wounded in the attack near the school in Paktia province, the latest militant strike to cause civilian casualties in the 12-year war against the US-backed government.

“A suicide bomber on a motorbike detonated his explosives in a crowded area outside the school,” Zalmai Uriakhail, the police chief of Paktia, told AFP.

“The children had finished their studies and they were heading home.”Uriakhail said the attack happened in a market in Chamkani district at about 11:00 am after morning lessons.

The interior ministry confirmed the attack and said 10 children and a policeman were killed, with 15 children injured.

The Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said two of its soldiers died in the attack. It did not release their nationalities in line with coalition policy.

“We can confirm there was a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (IED) attack on an Isaf convoy. Two Isaf service members were killed,” a coalition spokesman said.

The attack came hours after a roadside bomb killed seven members of a family in Laghman province, also in east Afghanistan.

Four women, two children and a man died when their car hit a Taliban-planted IED near the town of Mehtarlam, Sarhadi Zwak, the provincial administration spokesman, said.

The Taliban, who ruled Afghanistan from 1996-2001, have repeatedly said they do not target civilians in their battle against President Hamid Karzai's government and foreign troops. But their attacks often kill non-combatants.

On Friday the insurgents issued a statement denying involvement in a suicide and gun attack on the International Committee of the Red Cross offices in the eastern city of Jalalabad.

The statement repeated the declaration that the Taliban never target civilians.

Spokesmen for the insurgents were not immediately available to comment on Monday's attacks.

Eastern Afghanistan is a key battleground in the conflict, with many militants using safe havens inside neighbouring Pakistan to launch attacks against Afghan and foreign soldiers.

For years leaders in Kabul and Islamabad have traded accusations of blame over the Islamist extremists, who cross the porous border with impunity.

There are presently around 100,000 international troops fighting the Taliban, with Afghan soldiers and police gradually taking over security responsibilities ahead of the withdrawal of all Nato combat troops next year.

The Taliban did claim responsibility for a major attack 10 days ago on central Kabul that left one policeman, two civilians and all four militants dead.

The assault targeted a International Organisation for Migration compound, but the Taliban said it was a guest house allegedly used by Afghan and US intelligence staff.

The Taliban announced their annual “spring offensive” at the end of April, opening a crucial period as local security forces take the lead in the fight against the insurgents.



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