- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 13, 2008

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) – A suicide bomber targeting a passing U.S. military convoy blew up his car near a crowded market in eastern Afghanistan Thursday, killing at least 21 people, including an American soldier, officials said.

The explosion also wounded 74 people near the livestock market where people were trading sheep cows, goats and other animals in the Bati Kot district outside Jalalabad, Afghan police and health officials said.

Charred and twisted remain of cars that were destroyed in the blast smoldered for hours after the attack on Afghanistan’s main road to the nearby Pakistani. A U.S. military vehicle was among the wreckage.

Lt. Cmdr. Walter Matthews, a U.S. military spokesman, said at least 20 civilians and a U.S. soldier were killed. The soldier’s death brings the number of U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan to at least 148, the highest number of troop deaths per year since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.

There were 111 U.S. military deaths in Afghanistan in the whole of 2007.

Nobody claimed responsibility for the attack. Taliban militants regularly use suicide attackers and car bombs in their assaults against U.S., Afghan and other foreign troops in the country.

The United Nations condemned the attack, saying it “inflicted enormous suffering in an otherwise peaceful community.”

“Insurgent and anti-government groups bear responsibility for ensuring civilians are kept out of harm’s way, one for which flagrant disregard has been shown in these cases,” Chris Alexander, the deputy head of the U.N. mission in Afghanistan, said in a statement.

Separately, two British troops were killed Wednesday in an explosion in southern Afghanistan’s restive Helmand province, Britain’s Ministry of Defense said in a statement. The Royal Marines’ vehicle was struck by an explosive while they were on a patrol with Afghan security forces in the Garmsir district, the statement said.

The deaths bring the number of British personnel who have died in Afghanistan to 124.

More than 5,400 people, of whom nearly 1,000 civilians, have died in insurgency related violence this year, according to a tally compiled by the Associated Press based on figures provided by Afghan and international officials.

___

Associated Press writer Fisnik Abrashi in Kabul contributed to this report.

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