A homicide car bomber targeted a NATO convoy Friday in southern Afghanistan, killing a NATO soldier and eight civilians, alliance and police officials said.

The attack in Kandahar also left eight civilians and one NATO soldier wounded, the officials said.

Pieces of the bomber's vehicle were scattered over the blast site and smoke rose from the scene as firefighters battled the flames. The fronts of 12 shops were damaged.

The eight wounded civilians included two children, said Masood Khan, a doctor at a hospital where they were being treated.

Two soldiers who were initially wounded in the blast were taken to a military medical facility, where one of them died, a statement from the NATO-led force said. Their nationalities were not released.

While NATO has said clashes with insurgents have decreased in the last month in southern Afghanistan, the militants are increasingly resorting to roadside and suicide attacks in their bid to weaken the government and hit foreign troops.

The blast comes a day after NATO-led forces and Afghan troops clashed with suspected Taliban militants also in the south, leaving as many as 20 suspected insurgents dead, Chalk said.

Some 60 insurgents attacked a joint NATO and Afghan patrol in the Kandahar province's Panjwayi district, he said.

The troops returned fire and called in airstrikes on insurgent positions that left up to 20 militants dead and two suspected Taliban detained, Chalk said. There were no casualties among NATO or Afghan troops, he said.

It was impossible to independently verify the death toll at the remote battle site.

In the east, a suicide bomber on foot rushed at a vehicle carrying Afghan troops in Khost province and set off a blast that killed himself, and wounded two of the troops and 14 civilians, said Mohammad Ayub, a provincial police chief.

Afghanistan is going through its worst period of violence since 2001, particularly in the south and east.