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Latest in Series of Insurgent Attacks Kills at Least 20 in Afghanistan

October 31, 2011 at 12:00 AM EDT

GWEN IFILL: And to renewed violence in Afghanistan, where suicide bombers in the two largest cities have claimed more than 20 lives.

RAY SUAREZ: The latest in a months-long series of high-profile insurgent attacks came today in Kandahar. A suicide bomber blew up a checkpoint. Then three gunmen seized control of a building near the United Nations refugee office.

NATO and Afghan forces battled the insurgents for seven hours, eventually killing the militants, but 10 others lay dead, too, including three U.N. workers.

The Kandahar strike came two days after a bombing in Kabul that was the deadliest attack on NATO forces in the capital during the 10-year war. A military transport convoy rolling along the Darulaman Road on the southern outskirts of Kabul was hit by a car bomb. The attacker rammed the main, heavily armored vehicle known as a Rhino Runner, like this one, with what the Taliban claimed was a 1,500-pound bomb.

The 13-ton bus flipped and burned. Seventeen were killed, among them four American soldiers, a Canadian trooper, four Afghans, and eight civilian contractors working for the NATO-led mission. Though the Taliban claimed responsibility, suspicion fell on another militant group, the Haqqani Network. It’s a better trained and organized faction operating out of Pakistan’s wild frontier lands.

The Haqqanis are also blamed for a slew of other recent attacks. Last month, Haqqani militants besieged the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, an assault that lasted the 20 hours. Just two days before that, a Sept. 11 anniversary truck bombing hit an American base, wounding more than 70 U.S. personnel. And, in June, a team of Haqqani operatives led a coordinated assault on the Intercontinental Hotel that burned part of the Kabul icon. At least 21, including nine gunmen, died after an hours-long gun battle.