Source AP ©

Suicide bomber wounds 22 civilians in Afghanistan

A suicide bomb attack targeted at a NATO convoy in Kabul wounded 22 civilians.

The attack came as visiting U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates planned to meet with President Hamid Karzai and other Afghan officials in the capital, Kabul .

Gates was "nowhere near the blast," said a U.S. Embassy official who spoke on condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to speak on the issue publicly.

The bomber struck a two-vehicle convoy belonging to NATO's International Security Assistance Force near the city's airport, Interior Ministry spokesman Zemeri Bashary said.

Twenty-two civilians were wounded in the attack, NATO said in a statement.

There were no casualties in the NATO convoy, said Lt. Col. Thomas Dillschneider, an ISAF spokesman.

The attacker's car was completely destroyed and three private vehicles, including a minibus, were damaged, said an Associated Press reporter at the scene.

Ten people who were riding in the minibus near the blast were among those wounded, said Ghulam Rasool, a police officer.

Militants have launched more than 130 suicide attacks this year - a record number. At least 6,200 people have died in insurgency-related violence in 2007, also a record, according to an Associated Press tally of figures from Afghan and Western officials.

Suicide attacks frequently target international and Afghan security forces, but most of the casualties are civilian passers-by.

On Monday, another suicide bomber blew himself up next to a police patrol in southwestern Nimroz province, killing two police officers and two civilians, said provincial Governor Ghulam Dastagir.

The blast also wounded three officers and four civilians, Dastagir said.

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