Two German soldiers and five children have been killed in a suicide bombing in Northern Afghanistan, according to reports from Afghan, German and NATO officials.
The suicide bombing was specifically targeting German troops
The five children and two German soldiers were killed in a suicide bombing near the northern Afghan city of Kunduz, the governor of Kunduz province confirmed.
"The blast took place on a main road. This is the work of terrorists. We have arrested two suspects in relation to the incident," he said.
Two other children who were playing nearby and two German soldiers were also wounded, Provincial governor Mohammad Omar said.
The governor said the attacker on a bicycle blew himself up next to a German army convoy in the Chardara district, five kilometers south of Kunduz city.
The Taliban took responsibility for the attack in a statement posted on its website, saying one of its fighters, identified only as Islamuddin, carried out the attack.
A spokesman for the hard-line Taliban, Zabihullah Mujahid, claimed a dozen foreign soldiers had been killed.
NATO, Germany confirm deaths
Berlin confirmed the attack had targeted the Bundeswehr
The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) also confirmed the deaths of two of its soldiers in a statement issued by its headquarters in Kabul.
"Acts such as this, which offer nothing but violence and death, will not deter us in our commitment to create a better Afghanistan," Brigadier General Richard Blanchette, an ISAF spokesman said.
The ISAF commander did not give the nationalities of the dead troops but the German Defense Ministry, which approved the deployment of an additional 1,000 German troops to Afghanistan last week, confirmed Monday's bombing as taking place near to where its troops were based, just outside of Kunduz.
Provincial governor Omar said the two troops killed were German.
Taliban militants have recently heavily relied on suicide and roadside bombings as part of their campaign against the Western-backed Afghan government and international forces.
"We have information that five bombers have entered into the province," Omar added, raising concerns that the region would be plagued by more assaults in the future.
Northern Afghanistan is relatively peaceful compared with the south and east, where Taliban militants are the most active.
Bundeswehr deployment one of the largest in ISAF
Germany's troops are increasingly at risk from attack
More than 3,500 German soldiers are stationed in the northern provinces. The soldiers are part of around 50,000 ISAF troops that have been deployed to the country after the 2001 ouster of the Taliban regime.
Germany has one of the biggest contingents in ISAF, based largely in the northern towns of Mazar-i-Sharif and Kunduz.
Another German soldier was killed in the same district at the end of August in a roadside bombing. The Taliban claimed responsibility for that blast.
It was the second suicide attack in Afghanistan on Monday after another bomber blew himself up against an armored Afghan army vehicle in the southern town of Lashkar Gah but killed only himself.
The attacker, who detonated bombs strapped to his body, appeared to be around 15 years old, Afghan army officer Gul Noor said. The vehicle was badly damaged.
The Taliban have attacked Lashkar Gah, the capital of volatile Helmand province, several times in the past week but have been repelled in battles that Afghan authorities said had left several rebel fighters dead.
Increase of suicide bombings as insurgency swells
Suicide bombings have increased as the Taliban push on
Afghanistan has seen a spate of suicide attacks, which are most usually aimed at international forces but kill more civilians.
Most of the attacks are claimed by the Taliban, the Islamist extremist movement which has been waging an insurgency in Afghanistan.
The group was in government between 1996 and 2001 when they were toppled in a US-led invasion after refusing to hand over Al-Qaeda militants blamed for the 9/11 attacks on the United States.
They are fighting to take back control in an insurgency that has grown year on year.
NATO has about 50,000 soldiers from nearly 40 countries in Afghanistan helping the government to assert its authority.