Suicide bomber wounds 5 in Afghanistan-ministry

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LASHKAR GAH, Afghanistan, Nov 11 (Reuters) A suicide bomber wounded five civilians in southern Afghanistan today, the Afghan Defence Ministry said.

The Taliban have killed at least 200 people in more than 130 suicide attacks this year, undermining public confidence in ability of the government and the 50,000 foreign troops in the country to provide security more than six years after US-led and Afghan forces ousted the hardline Islamist movement from power.

''A suicide bomber wounded five civilians in the Girishk district of Helmand province,'' a Defence Ministry statement said. The ministry had earlier said in a statement that five people were killed in the attack, but blamed that on a typing error.

The Interior Ministry said foreign troops were the target, but only two civilians were wounded.

A patrol from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) was the target of the attack, but no foreign forces were hurt and the patrol did not stop, a British military spokesman in Helmand said.

The bomber was waiting at the side of the road for a convoy of foreign troops to pass, a Girishk police official said.

Recognising the threat, the troops shot the bomber and as they did so he detonated his explosives, but wounded only three civilians, said the official, who declined to named.

The British spokesman said he was unable to confirm that account of the attack.

Despite heavy battlefield defeats, the Taliban's campaign to oust the pro-Western Afghan government and eject foreign forces shows no signs of flagging and the insurgents have extended the area of their operations, launching attacks the length and breadth of the country.

NATO leaders admit they are in a race against time to train Afghan forces, provide security and bring development and reconstruction so as to undercut support for the Taliban before Afghan resentment grows against foreign forces and casualties lead to Western government's withdrawing their troops.

REUTERS GL DS1320

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