KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN — A suicide bomber attacked a military convoy Friday as it drove through a town in southern Afghanistan, killing five civilians and a soldier with the U.S.-led coalition, officials said.
Mohammed Hussein Andiwal, the police chief of Helmand province, said the lone bomber was on foot and struck as the vehicles were passing a market area in the town of Gereshk.
Andiwal initially reported 10 civilians killed, but said later that city officials on the scene had given him inaccurate information. He said the five civilian victims included two children. Four civilians were injured, he said.
Lt. Col. Paul Fanning, a spokesman for the U.S. force in Afghanistan, said one of its troops also was killed. He declined to disclose the victim's nationality.
The blast came a day after a shooting incident in which two soldiers from the separate U.S.-led coalition were fatally wounded in Helmand. An explosion Tuesday killed four British troops in the province.
On Friday, NATO and the Afghan troops were finishing up an operation against insurgents who had infiltrated a fertile valley within striking distance of the city of Kandahar, the Taliban's former capital.
"No large formation of insurgents were met or spotted. Only minor incidents occurred," alliance spokesman Maj. Gen. Carlos Branco said. "The insurgents who were there were evidently not in the numbers or with the foothold that they have claimed."
Hundreds of families who fled the lush, orchard-strewn Arghandab district just 10 miles northwest of Kandahar can safely return, the alliance said.
North Atlantic Treaty Organization and Afghan officials said ground troops were moving methodically through the area on the east bank of the Arghandab River, wary of bombs and keen to avoid civilian casualties.
Confidence in the government and foreign forces was badly shaken last week when a bold Taliban attack on the Kandahar prison freed 900 inmates, including 400 Taliban fighters.
"We know that after recent events like the jailbreak there is concern about our capabilities. This was a fast and very effective response and I think something that all Afghans can take great heart from," said Mark Laity, a NATO spokesman.