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Suicide attack targeting NATO kills 17 Afghans in eastern town

GARDEZ, Afghanistan--A suicide bomber on a motorbike struck a joint Afghan-NATO patrol in the town of Khost on Wednesday, killing 17 Afghans and causing coalition casualties, officials said.

The blast in the eastern town close to the border with Pakistan, where Taliban and other Islamist insurgents fighting US-led troops have strongholds, also wounded 37 people, hospital officials said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility but the government blamed “enemies of Afghanistan”, a phrase commonly used by officials to refer to the Taliban.

The Taliban, leading a 10-year insurgency against President Hamid Karzai's western-backed government, have begun the annual fighting season with a series of attacks which saw US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta admit that violence was rising.

Interior ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said Wednesday's blast targeted a combined Afghan and coalition patrol passing through Khost, one of the most troubled parts of Afghanistan.

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