KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - A suicide bomber on a motorcycle killed at least 10 people, including three American soldiers, at a park in a relatively peaceful area of northern Afghanistan on Wednesday, part of an increase in violence at the start of the spring fighting season.
The Taliban, which claimed responsibility for the attack, are targeting Afghan and NATO security forces as they fight to assert their power and undermine U.S. efforts to try to build up the Afghan military, who will take the lead in combat responsibility over the next couple of years.
Shortly before noon, the bomber detonated his explosives at the gate of the park in Maimanah, the capital of Faryab province, police spokesman Lal Mohammad Ahmad Zai said. His target was unclear, but Zai said four of the 10 killed were Afghan police officers. At least 20 people were wounded.
In Kabul, NATO said three of its service members were killed in a bombing Wednesday in northern Afghanistan. It provided no other details about the attack or the nationalities of the three.
A senior U.S. defense official, however, confirmed three were American troops killed in the Faryab bombing.
Associated Press video footage of the scene of the attack shows what appear to be dead Afghan civilians, police and foreign troops. Body parts are strewn around the gate and on the ground, which is spattered with blood.
In a statement on their Web site, the Afghan Taliban claimed killing 16 coalition troops and 12 Afghans in the Faryab suicide attack.
Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi said a suicide bomber detonated his explosive belt among coalition forces in Maimanah as they were traveling to a park.
Faryab is relatively calm but is a stronghold of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, or IMU, an al-Qaida affiliated group that has been most active in Afghanistan's northern provinces. The IMU was formed in 1991, originally aiming to set up an Islamic state in Uzbekistan, which borders Afghanistan. Later it expanded its goal to seeking an Islamic state across Central Asia.
On March 26, a joint Afghan and coalition force in Faryab killed the group's leader in Afghanistan, Makhdum Nusrat. The coalition said Nusrat had been leading attacks against Afghan and coalition troops in the north for the past eight months and was plotting the assassination of a member of parliament in Kabul.