A suicide bomber riding a motorcycle killed 16 people, including two children and a policeman, and wounded at least 23 others Friday in a busy city square in western Afghanistan, officials said.
Provincial Gov. Rohul Amin said the blast occurred about 55 yards from his compound in a crowded square in Farah.
Afghan police shouted "Stop! Stop!" at the motorcyclist before he detonated the explosives, provincial police chief Gen. Mohammad Faqir Askar said. It was unclear what the bomber was targeting.
Amin said the 16 killed included two children. Dr. Shir Agh Asas at the hospital in Farah city said several children also were among the wounded. A police officer also died.
"These days Taliban are causing high casualties because the foreign forces and Afghan forces have been conducting operations against the insurgency in the region," Askar said.
An operation three days ago in another part of the province killed five insurgents, including a Taliban commander and a bomb-maker, Askar said.
The violence comes a day after Afghan President Hamid Karzai, in his second inaugural address, said he has placed national reconciliation with insurgents at the top of his peace-building agenda.
"We invite dissatisfied compatriots, who are not directly linked to international terrorism, to return to their homeland," he said.
Karzai also set a five-year timetable for the Afghan security forces to take the lead in defending the nation, a goal that would allow international forces to take on more of a support role.
As the inaugural ceremony took place in Kabul on Thursday, a suicide bomber killed two U.S. service members in the southern province of Zabul, local officials and NATO said. Hours later, another suicide bomber blew himself up in a busy marketplace in another province, killing 10 civilians, including three boys, and wounding 13 other people.
Also Friday, three civilians were wounded by a roadside bomb in Khost province, according to Wazir Pacha, deputy police chief of Khost.
Separately, NATO said Afghan and international forces killed a man in Takhar province in northern Afghanistan on Friday believed to be an operative with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan who was responsible for financing militant activities and transporting foreign fighters into the region. The man was killed during a search of a compound in rural Bangi district, it said.
According to NATO, there has been an increase in the number of Uzbek fighters in the ranks of the Taliban in northern Afghanistan from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.