KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - A suicide bomber killed 21 people including three U.S. soldiers at a checkpoint in a packed market in eastern Afghanistan on Wednesday - the third assault targeting Americans in as many days.
The daily violence is threatening to undermine international hopes of an orderly handover to Afghan forces at the end of 2014. Although American officials stress successes in establishing pockets of governance in some areas, the east and south continue to be plagued by regular attacks and clashes.
Wednesday's attack took place in a marketplace in the city of Khost, near the Pakistani border and about 90 miles southeast of the Afghan capital, Kabul.
The assailant approached on foot through the shops and taxi stands packed with people and then detonated his explosives as he approached Afghan and U.S. soldiers at a checkpoint, said Baryalai Wakman, a spokesman for the Khost provincial government.
Three U.S. soldiers and an Afghan interpreter were killed, according to American officials. A convoy in the area responded to the attack, said Maj. Martyn Crighton, a spokesman for NATO forces in Afghanistan.
Besides the interpreter, 17 Afghans also were killed, according to the Afghan president's office. Two were police officers and the rest were civilians, Wakman said. Another 32 people were wounded - all civilians, he said.