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The Taliban claimed responsibility for the bombing.

“It was very powerful, It shook Khost city,” he said about the blast.

The explosion, which occurred in a crowded area, damaged cars, houses and shops and sent a pillar of thick black smoke into the air.

“The blast was very large. It went off in the heart of the city near a police checkpoint,” 35-year-old Noorullah of Khost told The Associated Press. “There is broken glass in the residential areas around the bombing, Even people in their houses were injured by broken glass.”

Noorullah, who uses one name, said city residents were expressing fear and disappointment about the continuing violence.

“Continually we are facing this disaster,” he said, adding that he has little faith in the ability of the Afghangovernment’s peace council to reconcile with insurgents. “The government officials in Khost province — they are so scared. They cannot leave their offices, their compounds, to go out to talk to the people.”

Naqibullah Ehssas, a 27-year-old university instructor from Khost, said he noticed a suspicious vehicle behind him and narrowly escaped injury by driving in another direction.

“I was driving my vehicle and when I arrived near the bridge a suspicious vehicle was driving behind me,” he said. “When the police noticed the suspicious vehicle, then I got scared. Suddenly the people shouted ‘Suicide attacker!’”

Amir Pacha, director of hospitals in the province, gave the casualty toll, saying at least 30 people were wounded. NATO put the number of injuries at more than 40.

In December 2009, a suicide bomber, who was a double agent, killed seven CIA employees at a U.S. intelligence base in Khost.

Farther north, coalition troops patrolling in aircraft spotted a group they identified as armed insurgents and fired on them in Ghazi Abad district of Kunar province, kicking off a more than four-hour battle late Thursday that left more than 30 insurgents dead, the coalition said. After they opened fire, a large number of armed individuals emerged from a nearby building and they also were targeted and killed, NATO said.

A roadside bomb also killed a coalition service member in southern Afghanistan, NATO said, without providing a nationality.

The attacks raised to 18 the number of coalition troops who have died in Afghanistan so far this month.

Last year was the deadliest of the nearly decade-long war for international troops, with more than 700 killed, compared to just more than 500 in 2009. In January, 31 American and other NATO troops were killed.

Associated Press Writer David Rising in Berlin contributed to this report.