A suicide bomb attack, targeting US and Afghan forces, killed two NATO soldiers and a policeman in eastern Afghanistan on Monday, the international coalition said, adding 10 schoolchildren also died in the blast as they were returning home from class.

The police chief of Paktia province said the attackers used an explosives-packed motorcycle. He said the attack occurred in a market in Chamkani district at about 11am as pupils were leaving school after morning lessons.

“A suicide bomber on a motorbike detonated his explosives in a crowded area outside the school. “The children had finished their studies and were heading home,” he said. The interior ministry confirmed the attack and said 10 children, two Nato soldiers and a policeman were killed while 15 children also injured.

The attack came hours after a roadside bomb killed seven members of a family in Laghman province, also in east Afghanistan.

Four women, two children and a man died when their car hit a Taliban-planted improvised explosive device (IED) near the town of Mehtarlam, Sarhadi Zwak, provincial administration spokesman, said in a statement.

The Taliban who ruled Afghanistan from 1996-2001 have repeatedly said they do not target civilians in their war against the US-backed government of President Hamid Karzai, but their attacks often kill non-combatants.

On Friday the insurgents issued a statement denying involvement in a suicide and gun attack on International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) offices in the eastern city of Jalalabad. The statement repeated the declaration that the Taliban never target civilians.

Spokesmen for the insurgents were not immediately available to comment on Monday's attacks.

Eastern Afghanistan is a key battleground in the fight against the militants many of whom use safe havens inside Pakistan to launch attacks against Afghan soldiers and the US-led military coalition.

For years, leaders in Kabul and Islamabad have traded accusations over the Islamist extremists who pose a threat to security in both the countries and cross the border with impunity.

There are presently around 100,000 international troops fighting the Taliban, with Afghan soldiers and police gradually taking over security responsibilities ahead of the withdrawal.