LASHKAR GAH, Afghanistan — A suicide bomber blew himself up at a busy bazaar here in southern Afghanistan, killing 17 people and wounding 47.
All of the dead were civilian men, said Ghulam Muhiddin, spokesman for the governor of Helmand province. Fifteen children were among the wounded, he said.
Qari Mohammed Yousuf, who claims to speak for the Taliban, said the bombing had targeted a former Lashkar Gah police chief who runs the market. The man and his son were among those killed.
"We are very sad about the civilian casualties," Yousuf said in a phone call. He often calls journalists to claim responsibility for attacks, but his exact ties to the Taliban leadership are unclear.
President Hamid Karzai condemned the attack as a "heinous act of terrorism" that killed the poor and innocent.
NATO's force commander in the region branded the assailants "vicious criminals."
"This is a horrifying waste of human life that shows the complete disregard of the insurgents for the people of Afghanistan and their future," British army Lt. Gen. David Richards said in a statement.
It was the second major suicide attack to kill civilians this month in the south, where insurgents are battling NATO-led troops and Afghan forces.
On Aug. 3, a suicide car bomber apparently targeting Canadian forces led by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization killed 21 civilians and wounded 13 in the town of Panjwayi in neighboring Kandahar province.
Taliban suicide attacks have become more frequent this year. More than 1,600 people, mostly militants, have died in Afghanistan in the last four months, according to an Associated Press tally.