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Suicide bomber kills 35 at Afghan clinic Taliban denies role in attack

A suicide bomber rammed into a small clinic Saturday in eastern Afghanistan, causing the building to collapse as patients -- mostly women and children -- lined up for vaccinations, maternity care and other services. At least 35 people were killed in one of the deadliest attacks against civilians this year.

Guards saw the sport utility vehicle charging toward the Akbarkhail Public Medical Center, a compound that provides health care for the mountainous area in the Azra district of Logar province. But before anyone could shoot the driver or blow out the tires, it smashed through a wall and exploded, officials said.

Wary of being blamed for civilian casualties, the Taliban denied it was behind the bombing.

Survivors of the blast and others who heard the explosion frantically dug through the rubble with shovels and bare hands. At least 35 bodies were pulled from the debris and 53 other people were wounded, said Dr. Mohammad Zaref Na-yebkhail, the provincial public health director.

The victims -- mostly women and children -- included patients, visitors and medical staffers.

Saturday's attack was the deadliest since February, when three men fatally shot 38 people at a branch of Kabul Bank in Jalalabad. The Taliban claimed responsibility, saying the victims deserved their fates because some worked for the Western-backed Afghan government, which they perceive as illegitimate.

The Taliban also claimed responsibility for a bomb attack in February in the northern province of Kunduz which killed 31 people as they waited for government identification cards.

A recent U.N. report found that May was the deadliest month for civilians since it began keeping track in 2007. It said insurgents were responsible for 82 percent of the 368 deaths.

Late Friday, another blast -- this one caused by a bicycle rigged with explosives -- ripped through a bazaar in the Khan-abad district of Kunduz, a province in northern Afghanistan, killing at least 10 people, including a police officer, and injuring 24, according to an Interior Ministry statement.

The bombings raised concerns about the readiness of Afghans to take over their own security as the U.S. and other NATO nations begin to withdraw forces. President Obama announced Wednesday that he plans to withdraw 10,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year and another 23,000 by the end of next summer. NATO officials insist the Afghan government will be prepared for full sovereignty by 2014.

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