KABUL, Afghanistan -- A suicide bomber on a motorcycle rammed a convoy of NATO and Afghan forces carrying out a joint patrol in the eastern city of Khost on Monday, killing at least 14 people, including three coalition soldiers and their Afghan interpreter, local authorities said.
Afghan Taliban insurgents claimed responsibility for the attack, which occurred at about 8:30 a.m. in the middle of a bustling plaza. Abdul Jabar Nahimi, governor for Khost province, said the blast also killed 10 Afghan civilians and injured 61 others, including three Afghan national police officers.
In a statement, NATO confirmed the deaths of the coalition soldiers and the interpreter. Officials did not release the nationalities of the soldiers killed.
Khost is one of Afghanistan’s most dangerous provinces, perched on the border of Pakistan's volatile tribal areas that serve as sanctuary for some Afghan insurgents. In December 2009, the province was the scene of a suicide bombing of a CIA base that killed seven the intelligence agency's employees and contractors.
Joint patrols have become one of the most controversial aspects of the uneasy partnership between Washington and Kabul, as both sides prepare for the handoff of security responsibilities to Afghan forces by the end of 2014. So-called insider attacks -- members of Afghan security forces killing their coalition counterparts -- have claimed the lives of more than 50 U.S. and coalition troops this year.
In reaction to the jump in insider attacks, NATO earlier this month temporarily suspended joint operations with Afghan security forces, allowing them only if they were approved by a high-ranking regional commander. Though the restrictions remain in place, U.S. officials say cooperation on joint operations has resumed.
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-- Aimal Yaqubi
Yaqubi is a special correspondent in Kabul.
Photo: Afghan police secure the site of a suicide bombing in Khost, Afghanistan. Credit: Nashanuddin Khan / Associated Press