Tue, Jan 17, 2006 - Page 5 News List

At least 26 killed in suicide bombings claimed by Taliban

AGENCIES , KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN

Bombers killed at least 26 people in two separate attacks in southern Afghanistan yesterday, a day after a Canadian diplomat and two civilians were killed in the area.

An unidentified man drove near a crowd of about 100 people watching a wrestling match at a fair in the Afghan border town of Spinboldak, a key crossing point into southern Pakistan, and detonated explosives strapped to his body, said Kandahar provincial Governor Asadullah Khalid.

"The wrestling match was about to end when the explosion occurred,"' Khalid said.

He said that 20 people were killed, as well as the attacker, and more than 20 were wounded, at least five seriously.

However, Rafiq Tarin, a government administrator in the neighboring Pakistani town of Chaman, said more than 30 people who were injured in the explosion were treated in a hospital there, including many in critical condition.

Earlier, a suicide bomber hurled himself in front of an Afghan army vehicle in the provincial capital, Kandahar, 110 km to the north, killing three Afghan soldiers and two civilians.

Taliban spokesman Mohammad Hanif claimed responsibility for that blast, just hours after President Hamid Karzai had expressed concern about an increase in suicide bombings.

Four Afghan soldiers and 10 civilians were also wounded in the attack in the heart of the city.

"It was a suicide incident," army Captain Habibur Rahman said near the scene, where pieces of flesh and blood were seen.

He said three soldiers were killed, and a hospital doctor said two civilians also died.

One eyewitness, Assadullah, said the bomber appeared to be a teenager.

"I saw a boy of about 15 with an explosives' vest running towards the car and then heard the explosion," he said. "I ran for cover and saw the casualties when I got up."

Speaking at his heavily fortified palace in Kabul, Karzai said increased use of suicide attacks showed Taliban desperation.

However, he added: "They cause insecurity, worry among people ... disrupt life. They are a matter of concern for us ... we will use all means to prevent them."

Sunday's apparent suicide attack on a Canadian military convoy in Kandahar killed 59-year-old Glyn Berry, a veteran Canadian foreign affairs official, and two Afghans. Three Canadian soldiers were wounded, two critically.

The past few months have seen a spate of Taliban suicide attacks, mainly targeting US-led troops and NATO peacekeepers, but they have not caused major casualties among foreign forces.

Security analysts suspect the Taliban has stepped up suicide attacks after seeing al Qaeda's success in Iraq.

The attacks have come at a time when America's NATO allies are due to take over more responsibility from US troops in Afghanistan and Washington is looking to trim its commitment.

The NATO plans have faced some opposition and the Dutch parliament is due to debate on Jan. 25 whether to commit 1,400 more troops to the volatile south, a highly contentious issue in the Netherlands given the dangers.

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