KABUL // A female suicide bomber killed 12 people in Kabul today in the deadliest single attack claimed to avenge a US film that has sparked a week of deadly protests across the Muslim world.
The attack brings to more than 30 the number of people now killed in a violent backlash over a YouTube trailer for the film, "Innocence of Muslims", believed to have been produced by a small group of extremist Christians.
Security officials said nine foreigners were among those killed on a major highway leading to Kabul airport and close to a wedding hall when the bomber blew her station wagon up alongside a minivan carrying foreign workers.
An AFP photographer saw at least six bodies lying among the wreckage of a gutted minivan, and another vehicle destroyed by flames still burning in the middle of the highway, with debris flung all around.
Hezb-i-Islami, the second largest insurgent group after the Taliban who have been fighting US-led troops and the government for 10 years, claimed the attack.
"The bombing was carried out by a woman named Fatima. The bombing was in retaliation for the insult to our Prophet," spokesman Zubair Sidiqi told AFP in a telephone from an undisclosed location.
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It is extremely rare for the faction to claim a suicide attack in Afghanistan. It is also rare for women to carry out suicide attacks.
Taliban fighters last week stormed a British-run airfield, killing two US Marines and destroying six US fighter jets also to avenge the film.
A week of furious protests outside US embassies and other American symbols in at least 20 countries have killed 19 other people, including the American ambassador to Libya and three other US diplomats in the North African country.
In Lebanon, the head of Shiite Muslim movement Hezbollah, which is blacklisted in the United States as a terrorist organisation, made a rare public appearance to warn of "very dangerous" repercussions if the film is released in its entirety.
Tens of thousands of demonstrators poured into the streets of southern Beirut to denounce the film at the request of Nasrallah, who has called for a week of protests over the film, describing it as the "worst attack ever on Islam".
"The US must understand that releasing the entire film will have dangerous, very dangerous, repercussions around the world," he told the rally.
The filmmaker Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a 55-year-old Egyptian Copt and fraudster who was sentenced to 21 months in prison in the US in June 2010, has not been seen since Saturday when he was questioned by his US parole officer.