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US military: Georgian soldier killed in latest Afghanistan attack

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KABUL, Afghanistan -- A Taliban suicide bomber disguised as a woman rammed his motorcycle into an international convoy, killing a NATO soldier and two Afghan civilians in an attack north of the Afghan capital, the U.S. military said Friday. It was the second deadly assault this week on a NATO convoy.

Stepped up Taliban attacks this week have focused mostly on the country's south, but there was also a deadly bombing in the western city of Herat, where 32 people died in a militant assault on a Shiite mosque.

Thursday evening's attack hit the NATO patrol near the town of Qarabagh, barely 30 kilometers (18 miles) north of Kabul, the Afghan capital, the U.S. military said.

The day before, a suicide attacker hit a convoy on the edge of the southern city of Kandahar, killing two U.S. soldiers and wounding another four. Both attacks were claimed by the Taliban.

According to the U.S. military, three other Georgian soldiers were wounded in Thursday's bombing, as well as two U.S. service members and an Afghan interpreter. The military said the wounded are in stable condition receiving treatment at the U.S. military hospital at Bagram Air Base, also north of Kabul.

The district governor in Qarabagh, Abdul Sami Sharifi, said the attacker concealed his explosives beneath the all-enveloping women's garment known as a burqa. He rammed his motorcycle into the NATO patrol, setting off his explosives, Sharifi said.

In a statement, U.S. Gen. John Nicholson, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, praised the contribution of the nearly 900 Georgian military personnel serving in Afghanistan.

"The commitment of Georgia as our largest non-NATO contributor is vital to our mission and we are honored to stand beside them under these difficult circumstances," Nicholson said.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told The Associated Press over the phone on Friday that one of its fighters from Takhar province carried out the attack at 8 p.m. in Qarabagh. He claimed 11 Americans were killed, but the insurgents routinely exaggerate their claims.

Meanwhile, in southern Helmand province, the Taliban stormed a market on Friday in the Gareshk district and fired at a nearby police station, according to district police chief Ismail Khan Khopalwaq. The market was closed because of the Muslim weekend and no casualties were reported in the attack.

On Thursday, a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden car into a police outpost in Gareshk, killing two policemen and wounding another two.

The district has been the scene of heavy fighting in recent weeks between Afghan security forces, backed by U.S. air support, and the Taliban, who now control roughly 80 percent of Helmand province.

Gareshk district is also where the Pentagon confirmed that an errant U.S. bomb last month destroyed a police outpost, killing 12 officers and wounding another 11. The incident is still under investigation and a joint U.S. and Afghan delegation earlier visited the area.

In recent days, the Taliban have stepped up their attacks on Afghan security forces across the country's south.

A Taliban attack early on Friday on a police outpost in southern Zabul province, on the border with Pakistan, killed four policemen. And three policemen were killed on Thursday when the Taliban attacked an outpost in southern Kandahar province, police spokesman Zia Durrani said.

In a separate attack near Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province, the Taliban killed another five policemen in an attack on a checkpoint outside the city on Thursday, according to Zahir Gull Maqbol, an Afghan army commander.

And earlier this week, a suicide bomber and gunman attacked a Shiite mosque in the western city of Herat left 32 people were dead and 66 wounded.

The audacity of Tuesday evening's attack, barely 50 meters (150 feet) from a police station, set off protests the following day. The suicide bomber first sprayed gunfire at the private guards who were protecting the mosque, before running inside firing until his rifle jammed, according to witnesses. He then detonated the explosives strapped to his body.

The Islamic State affiliate in Afghanistan took responsibility for that attack, saying they had deployed two suicide bombers. Witnesses reported a second explosion 10 minutes after the first bomber blew himself up.

IS considers Shiite Muslims as apostates and frequently targets them in attacks.

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Associated Press writer Mirwais Khan in Kandahar, Afghanistan, contributed to this report.

International on 08/05/2017

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