Two attacks kill 13 in Afghan south

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 18, 2012 12:34 PM
Two attacks kill 13 in Afghan south

HELMAND, Afghanistan (Reuters) - A suicide bomber and a remotely detonated mine killed 13 people including a security official on Wednesday in Afghanistan's southern Helmand province, an area where NATO-led forces have claimed security improvements over the past year.

The insurgent bomber detonated explosives strapped to his body in a crowded market in Helmand's Kajaki district in the afternoon, killing seven civilians and two Afghan policemen and wounding eight more, said governor spokesman Daoud Ahmadi.

Hours later, a mine killed a district security official and three others people in Nad Ali district, police chief Marjan Akmal told Reuters, declining to go into detail.

Both attacks raise serious concerns about security in one of the country's most violent provinces, an area that saw fierce fighting during a surge of U.S. troops over recent years.

So far nobody has claimed responsibility for the attacks, which come weeks after an offer from the Taliban to open a political office in Qatar as a prelude to possible peace talks with the United States and other nations.

British forces handed security of Kajaki district to U.S. Marines in June 2010, though the British remain the dominant foreign force in Helmand, a province that borders Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban and its main southern stronghold.

Despite the presence of more than 100,000 foreign troops, violence across Afghanistan remains at its worst levels since the Taliban were toppled by U.S.-backed Afghan forces in late 2001, according to the United Nations.

Foreign forces fighting mainly Taliban insurgents are in the process of handing control of security over to the Afghan army and police, with foreign combat troops due to leave by the end of 2014.

(Reporting by Abdul Malik, writing by Amie Ferris-Rotman.; Editing by Rob Taylor)