At least 10 Afghans, most of them police, have been killed and nearly 30 others wounded in two Taliban-style suicide attacks in southern Afghanistan, officials say.
The attacks on Monday followed a deadly weekend in which nine mostly Western soldiers were killed, along with several civilians and militants, in Afghanistan\’s growing Taliban-led insurgency.
One of the suicide attacks was outside the provincial police headquarters in Lashkar Gah, the capital of the turbulent, opium-producing province of Helmand.
“Nine bodies have been brought to our hospital,” Helmand health department chief Enayatullah Ghafari told AFP.
“More than 25 other people, including civilians, have been wounded. They are being treated in our hospital. Most of the casualties are police.”
Helmand is one of the most intense battlefields in the international fight against the extremist Taliban, who were in government between 1996 and 2001, and their allies in the al-Qaeda network.
British soldiers are deployed in the province on behalf of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) but none were harmed in the attack, an official said.
Two British soldiers were killed in a bomb blast elsewhere in Helmand on Sunday.
Monday\’s other suicide attack was at the police headquarters in the turbulent Delaram district of Farah province, police said.
A suicide bomber killed a policeman outside the building with a hand grenade then grabbed the dead man\’s weapon and ran into the compound, said the police spokesman for western Afghanistan, Abdul Rauf Ahmadi.
Other policemen fired at the attacker and bombs that were strapped to his body exploded, he said. Two shopkeepers were also wounded.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but suicide attacks have been trademarks of the Taliban arsenal in the years following the 2001 US-led invasion that toppled the repressive Islamist movement from government.
The Taliban on Sunday claimed responsibility for a blast that killed four US soldiers in ISAF in the eastern province of Nangarhar hours before the Britons were killed in the south.
Three other foreign troops died on Saturday, two in attacks and one in a traffic accident.
The spike in violence comes amid growing international alarm about how to counter the extremist unrest in Afghanistan and neighbouring Pakistan.
About 17,000 US troops are expected to start deploying to the south in the coming months to reinforce troops under pressure in the area, where several districts have fallen under control of insurgent allied with drugs lords.
They will add to ISAF\’s nearly 62,000 soldiers from 42 countries and another roughly 13,000 believed to be in a separate US-led coalition.
But with attacks at a record high last year, there has been increasing talk of finding a non-military solution to the spiralling violence, with Washington endorsing Kabul\’s push for peace talks with “moderate” Taliban.
The insurgents insist, however, that they will only enter negotiations after the departure of the foreign troops, on which the fragile Western-backed Afghan government relies.