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(photo credit: AP)
US-led coalition and Afghan forces clashed with suspected Taliban militants in four separate battles in southern Afghanistan, leaving at least 24 militants dead, while a suicide car bomber targeting a NATO convoy killed five children, officials said Friday.
In the east, a US-led coalition member was killed in a battle early Friday.
The suicide car bomb blast in Tirin Kot in Uruzgan province targeted a NATO convoy but killed five children on the street, said Mohammad Nabi Khan, a top provincial official.
Three Afghans and two NATO soldiers were wounded, he said.
NATO's International Security Assistance Force said a suicide bomber in a vehicle exploded next to an alliance's convoy in southern Afghanistan, wounding several soldiers and local nationals.
Purported Taliban spokesmen have warned Afghan civilians to stay away from military convoys, saying militants don't intend to kill them, but suicide bombings commonly kill or wound far more civilians than their intended military targets, a fact NATO repeatedly points out.
In the southern province of Helmand, a coalition and Afghan patrol was attacked by militants near Sangin district Thursday, before they fired back and called in airstrikes, a statement said.
"More than two dozen enemy fighters were estimated killed during the nine-hour battle and there are no reports of Afghan civilian injuries," it said.
In neighboring Zabul province, coalition and Afghan troops "killed a few militants" and detained three others Friday, during a raid on a compound in Shahjoy district, the coalition said.
During a brief firefight at the compound, two civilians were caught in the crossfire and suffered gunshot wounds, it said.
"A male teenager died from his wounds at the scene," it said, adding that another boy was evacuated for medical treatment.
Also in Zabul, a group of militants attacked a joint coalition and Afghan patrol with machine-gun fire and rocket-propelled grenades near the village of Baylogh in Daychopan district on Thursday.
"The combined patrol returned fire and then pursued the enemy attackers who were hiding on a ridgeline," it said. "A few enemy fighters were killed during the five-hour firefight," a statement said.
In eastern Afghanistan, a coalition service member was killed during a clash in Paktika province Friday, a coalition statement said.
The troops were engaged in combat operations when the service member was fatally wounded, it said. The soldier's nationality was not released, but most troops in the east are American.
Violence has spiked around Afghanistan in recent weeks. More than 2,300 people have died in insurgency-related violence in Afghanistan this year, according to an Associated Press count based on figures from US, NATO, UN and Afghan officials.
Elsewhere, US-led troops fired at a group of militants who were setting up a rocket in Shah Wali Kot district, Kandahar province, killing "several enemy fighters" and destroying their vehicle, another coalition statement said.
The casualty figures from the various battles could not be independently verified due to remoteness of the areas where the clashes took place.