KABUL, Afghanistan - Roadside bombs killed five NATO soldiers and a civilian in eastern Afghanistan yesterday, and a suicide bomber blew himself up while being chased by police in the southwest, killing three civilians.
A coalition of aid groups warned that violence is spreading to once-stable regions and forcing them to scale back humanitarian work.
The soldiers' deaths yesterday marked a bloody start to the month in what has been a deadly year for the separate US-led coalition and NATO mission in Afghanistan.
The insurgency is raging nearly seven years after the Taliban regime was ousted.
Four of the NATO soldiers and a civilian died in Kunar Province, and the fifth soldier was killed in Khost, the alliance said. It did not release the nationalities of the soldiers, but most troops in those eastern areas are American.
The number of insurgent attacks in eastern Afghanistan have increased 40 percent this year compared with the same period in 2007. Afghan officials contend that most of the militants fighting in the east use Pakistan's tribal areas across the border as a base.
The suicide bombing in the southwest occurred in the town of Zaranj, in Nimroz Province. Two girls were among the three dead, and five other people were wounded, Afghan authorities said.
Militants regularly use suicide bombing in attacks aimed at Afghan and foreign security forces, but the majority of victims are civilians.
The Taliban-led insurgency has been particularly strong in the south and east, but the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief said yesterday that violence is reaching other provinces, even those bordering the capital, Kabul, such as Logar and Wardak.
"Insecurity has spread to areas which were previously relatively stable in parts of north, northwest, and central Afghanistan," the umbrella organization for 100 aid groups said in a statement.
Drawing on other recent reports, it said that "aid organizations and their staff have been subject to increasing attacks, threats and intimidation, by both insurgent and criminal groups."
A group advising aid agencies on security tallied 2,056 insurgent attacks in the six months through June, a 52 percent increase from the same period of 2007. The Afghanistan NGO Safety Office said 19 aid workers have been killed this year, compared with 15 during 2007.
The coordinating body said initial estimates suggest more than 260 Afghan civilians were killed in July, higher than any other month in the last six years.
An Associated Press count based on accounts from Afghan and Western officials indicates more than 2,700 people - most of them militants - have died in insurgency-related violence this year.
The aid groups' statement said violence in southern Afghanistan has forced the closure of a large number of schools and health facilities and "has caused significant levels of internal displacement."
On top of the violence, it noted, parts of Afghanistan are experiencing "severe drought" and food prices are rising in the country.
"Increasing and spreading insecurity is jeopardizing the delivery of essential humanitarian assistance to these people and threatening their lives and livelihoods," the statement said.
Aleem Siddique, a top UN spokesman in Afghanistan, agreed that "the humanitarian challenge in Afghanistan continues to grow," but said he hoped that won't drive away aid agencies, whose support is needed "if we are to prevent further suffering."