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Suicide bombers strike in Afghan cities, U.S. troops kill 7 suspected militants

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AP) _ Suicide bombers struck in Afghanistan's two main cities Monday, killing three civilians and wounding six. Elsewhere, seven suspected militants died in fighting with coalition and NATO forces, officials said.

Taliban-led insurgents have kept up a steady stream of suicide attacks, on the back of the heaviest burst of fighting in Afghanistan since the Islamic militia's ouster from power five years ago.

Monday saw bombings in Kandahar and Kabul. In an attack near the international airport in the capital, police managed to corner the bomber and only one bystander, a child, was hurt, police officer Mirza Mohammed and witnesses said.

In the former Taliban stronghold of Kandahar, an attacker in a Toyota Surf laden with explosives rammed a NATO military convoy, killing himself and three Afghan civilians, NATO and police said. They said four civilians and a NATO soldier were wounded.

Maj. Daryl Morrell, a spokesman for the NATO-led force, blamed the Taliban, saying the hard-line militia wanted to disturb law and order in Kandahar province.

An Associated Press reporter at the scene saw Canadian troops block the road where the attack happened near a major junction leading into the city.

In central Ghazni province, U.S.-led coalition and Afghan troops, backed by warplanes, carried out a raid on a militant hideout that killed three suspected insurgents and wounded one soldier, the U.S. military said.

The military did not say what nationality the wounded soldier was.

Although NATO has assumed control of military operations in Afghanistan, the U.S. is leading a smaller coalition of a few thousand U.S. and other troops to focus on counterterrorism operations and the hunt for Osama bin Laden.

In eastern Kunar province, U.S. troops fighting under NATO command killed four insurgents near the Korangal outpost in the Pech district, attacking them with rocket-propelled grenades and semi-automatic weapons, a NATO statement said.

This year has seen a bloody escalation in violence in Afghanistan, primarily in the south. Over the weekend, Italian freelance photographer Gabriele Torsello and his Afghan translator were reportedly abducted there.

A week ago, two German journalists were killed in northern Afghanistan. Most kidnapping victims in the country have been Afghans or foreigners helping foreign troops or working with internationally funded reconstruction projects.
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