Fri, Oct 26, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Car bomb targeting Afghan governor leaves nine injured

AP , KABUL AND NOORDWIJK, NETHERLANDS

A car bomb that exploded near a convoy carrying a provincial governor in eastern Afghanistan left nine wounded, officials said yesterday.

Afghanistan's Interior Ministry said that Arsallah Jamal, the governor of Khost Province, survived the blast in Khost city unhurt, but five of his bodyguards and four civilians were wounded.

US troops surrounded the area of Wednesday's blast and took the wounded to a hospital at their base near the city, said General Mohammad Ayub, the provincial police chief.

It was at least the third attempt to kill Jamal, who was returning from a visit to districts near the border with Pakistan when he was targeted on Wednesday.

The US-led coalition, meanwhile, said on Wednesday its forces clashed with suspected militants in central Afghanistan, killing several insurgents and detaining two.

The troops moved into compounds in Nirkh District, Wardak Province, late on Tuesday on intelligence that militants were hiding there, a coalition statement said.

Troops found weapons, ammunition and explosive materials, it said.

The clash happened in the same province where NATO and Afghan troops on Monday called in airstrikes during a battle that left up to 20 militants but also as many as 12 civilians dead, Afghan officials said.

Afghanistan this year has seen the heaviest fighting since the 2001 ouster of the Taliban. In all, more than 5,200 people have died in insurgency related violence, including some 700 civilians, according to an Associated Press count based on figures from Afghan and Western officials.

Meanwhile, NATO has reported progress in drumming up more troops for Afghanistan after nations leading the battle against the Taliban stepped up pressure on more reluctant European allies, but the US said significant shortfalls remained.

"I wouldn't say I'm satisfied," US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said. "But I would say that today was considerably more positive than I anticipated."

Diplomats said nine of the 26 NATO nations made new troop offers on the opening day of a meeting of defense ministers. Officials said it was too early to estimate the overall additional contribution to NATO's force of 41,000. But the alliance's top diplomat said the offers were significant because they would include new deployments to the most dangerous southern battlefields and more training teams to build up Afghanistan's army.

"I've noticed offers from nations, including for the southern part of Afghanistan," alliance Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told a news conference. "We have 90 percent filled of what we need, but ... there are still shortages."

Gates used the opening session of the two-day meeting to press other allies to send more troops to the southern front lines where troops from the US, Canada and Britain are taking the lead.

"What we need now are actions, deeds and a sense of urgency and commitment to back up our pledges and promises," he said.

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