Suicide Bomber Targeting NATO Convoy Injures 7 Civilians in Afghanistan

A suicide car bomber targeted a NATO convoy in southern Afghanistan Wednesday, wounding seven civilians, while a U.S.-led coalition airstrike killed 13 suspected militants, officials said.

No NATO troops were injured in the suicide blast west of Kandahar city and one vehicle in the convoy was damaged, said Capt. Alex Watson, a Canadian military spokesman.

Seven civilian bystanders were wounded in the blast, said Esmatullah Alizai, Kandahar province's police chief.

In neighboring Helmand, U.S.-led coalition and Afghan troops clashed with suspected Taliban militants on Tuesday, and then called in airstrikes on a compound, leaving 13 militants dead, a coalition statement said.

The latest violence comes as NATO and Afghan troops push on with their largest-ever anti-Taliban offensive in Afghanistan, Operation Achilles, launched last month to flush out Taliban militants from the northern tip of opium-producing Helmand province.

Meanwhile, the body of an Afghan journalist killed by Taliban militants in southern Afghanistan was flown to the capital Kabul for burial, family and officials said.

Ajmal Naqshbandi, an Afghan freelance reporter and translator for Italian journalist Daniele Mastrogiacomo, was killed on Sunday in southern Afghanistan, where he was seized on March 5 with Mastrogiacomo and their driver.

"They have killed my innocent son," said Ghulam Haydan, Naqshbandi's father, as he wept while holding onto the coffin.

The abductors had slit Naqshbandi's throat and beheaded Sayed Agha, the driver.

Taliban militants killed Naqshbandi after authorities refused to carry out another prisoner exchange similar to the one that secured Mastrogiacomo's release.

Mastrogiacomo was freed March 19 in a swap for five imprisoned Taliban militants.

The deal has been criticized by Afghan lawmakers and foreigners working in Afghanistan as an incentive for militants to stage more kidnappings.