KABUL (Reuters) - A suicide bomber killed 14 people, including three NATO soldiers and four police, and wounded 37 in volatile Khost province in eastern Afghanistan on Monday, a NATO spokeswoman and local officials said.
A U.S. official in Washington confirmed the three soldiers killed were Americans serving in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force. Six civilians and an Afghan interpreter also died in the attack.
A witness told Reuters a suicide bomber wearing a police uniform struck as U.S. soldiers patrolled the city of Khost. A NATO spokeswoman confirmed only that the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber.
Provincial Governor Abdul Jabar Nahimi said the bomber had been riding a motorcycle packed with explosives and that 37 civilians were wounded in the blast.
The Afghan Taliban claimed responsibility, although Afghan insurgents are quick to claim any successful attack on foreign troops as their own.
The bombing followed the killing of two Americans on Sunday in an exchange of fire with Afghan forces that took the death toll of U.S. military and civilian personnel to over 2,000 in the 11-year war.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta phoned the Afghan defense and interior ministers on Monday to discuss the continuing development of Afghan security forces and ways of preventing insider attacks on NATO and Afghan forces.
It was the first time Panetta had spoken to Afghan Defence Minister Bismillah Khan Mohammadi and Interior Minister Ghulam Mujtaba Patang since their appointments to the positions. Mohammadi previously served as interior minister.
Panetta complimented Mohammadi and Patang on the increasing professionalism and capabilities of the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police, Pentagon spokesman George Little said. The three also talked about continuing to develop the Afghan security forces and working to prevent insider attacks, he said.
Insider attacks by members of the Afghan security forces against NATO allies have resulted in 52 deaths this year among foreign forces. They have prompted a tightening of rules for joint patrols between coalition and Afghan forces.
(Reporting by Elyas Wahdat; additional reporting by David Alexander in Washington; writing by Rob Taylor; editing by Nick Macfie and Mohammad Zargham)