GARDEZ, Afghanistan – A homicide bomber on foot detonated himself in a crowded market in eastern Afghanistan on Sunday just after a U.S. convoy drove by, killing at least 14 people and wounding 31, officials and witnesses said.
The attack in the city of Gardez damaged around 30 shops, shattered windows and destroyed the stores closest to the explosion. Three vehicles were damaged, including a taxi blasted by dozens of pieces of shrapnel.
Witnesses said a U.S. convoy appeared to be the target, and Maj. William Mitchell, a spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force, said there were initial reports of injuries to ISAF soldiers, though he didn't have further details.
Six people died at the scene of the blast, police said. Another eight later died at a hospital, said Ghulam Hazrat Majedi, the doctor in charge of the Gardez hospital. He said two of the 31 people injured were in a critical condition.
Afghan soldiers donated blood for the wounded.
Nasar Ahmad, a 30-year-old shopkeeper whose three cousins were seriously injured in the blast, said he saw a U.S. convoy driving through the city just before the explosion.
"I heard a strong blast and then saw a fireball go up," Ahmad said from Gardez' hospital. "For 10 minutes I couldn't hear and I didn't know where I was. I saw a lot of people injured lying in the street."
Shah Mohammad, 19, said everyone killed or wounded by the blast were Afghan civilians.
"The convoy had already passed when the attack happened," he said.
The blast in Gardez comes one day after a homicide bomber in northern Afghanistan killed three German soldiers and seven civilians.
Violence in Afghanistan has increased sharply in the last several weeks. More than 1,600 people, have been killed in insurgency-related violence this year, according to an AP count based on U.S., NATO and Afghan officials. The dead have mostly been militants, but about 300 civilians have also died in the violence.
In Ghazni province, 30 Taliban fighters were killed during a battle with ISAF and Afghan forces on Saturday, said Mohammad Qazam Allayar, the deputy provincial governor. He said 18 Taliban were injured and 11 arrested.
A statement from NATO's ISAF said that during the last several days Afghan and ISAF operations "have resulted in the removal of over 100 enemy fighters." The ISAF press office said it wasn't immediately clear what the word "removal" meant.
The statement said local Afghans are increasing their cooperation with military and government units.
"The people have said enough to the bloodshed and intimidation and are reporting criminals and insurgents; they are also closing off their lands and villages to them," said Maj. Donald Korpi, a spokesman with the unit involved in the Ghazni battles.