WRECKAGE: An Afghan security officer investigates the site of a suicide attack in Kabul on Tuesday. A suicide bomber blew up a mini-bus carrying foreign and local contract workers, including South Africans, near Kabul airport in Afghanistan on Tuesday. Picture: REUTERS

ANGER over a film mocking the Prophet Mohammed sparked a suicide bomb attack near Kabul airport yesterday which killed eight South Africans — coinciding with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) scaling back operations in Afghanistan due to the deteriorating security situation.

Protests against the film have stretched across the Middle East, Asia and Africa. In several cities, protesters attacked US embassies, blaming America for the video.

A suicide bomber rammed an explosives-laden vehicle into a minivan near Kabul, killing 12 people employed by an aviation company.

Hizb-e-Islami, a guerrilla group allied to the Taliban, said it carried out the attack in retaliation for the film, spokesman Zubair Siddiqi said yesterday. He said the bombing was carried out by a 22-year-old woman named Fatema.

SA’s government was contacting the families of those killed and would provide details later, Department of International Relations and Co-operation spokesman Clayson Monyela said yesterday.

President Jacob Zuma expressed his "heartfelt and sincere condolences to the families, friends and communities of the eight South Africans".

"I am deeply saddened by the deaths of the South Africans, as well as the other lives that were lost during this tragic incident. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the deceased," the Presidency said.

Nato’s International Security Assistance Force is suspending some joint operations due to attacks on its forces in Afghanistan.

Gen John Allen, commander of the coalition forces, "has directed all operational commanders to review force protection and tactical activities in the light of the current circumstances", Pentagon spokesman George Little said yesterday.

So far this year there have been 37 attacks, resulting in the deaths of 51 coalition troops at the hands of Afghan allies or infiltrators, compared with 35 deaths last year, according to Nato. In 2008, there were two insider attacks.

Nato secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the measures taken to protect the body’s troops in Afghanistan were "prudent and temporary in response to the current situation".

Reuters