Suicide bomber kills 4 Canadian troops in southern Afghanistan; blasts elsewhere kill 13

Monday, September 18th 2006, 6:28 am
By: News On 6

KAFIR BAND, Afghanistan (AP) _ A suicide bomber on a bicycle killed four Canadian troops and wounded at least 27 civilians in southern Afghanistan on Monday, while two other blasts in the capital and in the western part of the country killed a total of 13 Afghans, officials said.

The bomb in Kandahar province's Panjwayi district destroyed equipment and shredded the uniforms of the NATO troops. Pools of blood soaked into the dusty road, near the remains of the bomber and a gold-colored military patch from a soldier's uniform.

``Some 50 to 60 soldiers were patrolling on the main street when a man on a bicycle stopped and blew himself up near the forces,'' said 50-year-old farmer Fazel Mohammed, who lives about 20 yards from the site.

The bombing came a day after NATO declared an end to a two-week offensive aimed at driving Taliban militants out of safe havens in the same area. More than 500 insurgents were reported killed in the Canadian-led operation, which NATO described as a success despite continuing violence in the south.

Maj. Luke Knittig, a NATO spokesman, said the blast killed four NATO soldiers and ``wounded a number of others, including civilians.'' Karen Johnstone, a spokeswoman for the Canadian military in Ottawa, said four Canadian soldiers were killed.

NATO said in a later statement that 27 Afghan civilians had been wounded, including children.

An Afghan official said the bomber targeted Canadian troops on foot patrol handing out candy to children and killed and wounded dozens of people. The official spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the media.

But Mohammed and another villager disputed the account, saying few children were in the village at the time of the blast.

Qari Yousaf Ahmadi, who claims to be a spokesman for Taliban affairs in southern Afghanistan, said the bomber was an Afghan from Kandahar named Mullah Qudrat Ullah.

Ahmadi, whose exact ties to the militants are not known, told The Associated Press by telephone from an undisclosed location that militants would continue attacking U.S., NATO and other coalition forces.

Another suicide attacker on a bicycle killed at least 10 people and wounded 15 in western Afghanistan, said Dr. Tamana, who goes by one name, from Herat's main hospital.

The bomber, targeting a senior police official, blew himself up in the usually calm western city of Herat, said Gen. Abdul Wahab Walizada, the local army commander.

A suicide bomber in Kabul killed three police, an official said. Three other police and two civilians were wounded in the eastern suburb of Poli-e-Charki, said Ali Shah Paktiawal, the criminal director of Kabul police. At least two civilians were wounded in the blast in a market, said a witness, Baktiar Ahmad.

Two other police died in a roadside bombing in the south. Police also killed 13 Taliban in a southern gunfight.

Police also clashed with suspected insurgents in neighboring Helmand province Sunday, killing 13 suspected Taliban and wounding four, said Ghulam Nabil Malakheil, the provincial police chief.

Police recovered the dead militants' bodies, including that of Mullah Mohammed Akhunzada, a known Taliban commander, scattered throughout orchards in the Gereshk district village of Hawasa, Malakheil said. The insurgents took the wounded with them.

The officers also recovered 12 AK-47 assault rifles, three heavy machine guns and six rocket-propelled grenades, he said.

Separately, two police were killed and their vehicle destroyed when they were attacked by a roadside bomb early Sunday in the same district, said Ghulam Muhiddin, the Helmand governor spokesman. He blamed the Taliban.

NATO said Afghan and foreign forces launched a military operation in western Farah province on Monday amid a surge in the previously calm region.

Operation Wyconda Pincer involves Afghan soldiers and police along with U.S., Italian and Spanish troops in Farah, which borders Helmand province, the statement said.

The offensive follows recent Taliban attacks in Farah that left at least a dozen insurgents and police dead last week. Four Italian soldiers were also wounded in a recent roadside bombing.

Most of the recent surge in violence has taken place in volatile southern provinces, where some 8,000 NATO forces took military control from the U.S.-led coalition on Aug. 1. NATO commanders say they need another 2,500 troops plus greater air support to crush the Taliban threat more quickly.

The violence came after a top NATO general declared an end to Operation Medusa in Panjwayi and neighboring Zhari districts.

Lt. Gen. David Richards, head of the 20,000 NATO-led force in Afghanistan, described the operation as a ``significant success.'' Richards said the insurgents had been forced to abandon their positions and reconstruction and development efforts would soon begin in the volatile former Taliban heartland.

The insurgents had ``suffered significant casualties'' and ``had no choice but to leave,'' Richards said.

But in an apparent attempt to open a new front, some 400 Taliban crossed into the western Farah province and took control of its Gulistan district after chasing away police forces based there, said Gen. Sayed Agha Saqeb, the provincial police chief.

The militants, firing RPGs and heavy machine-guns, burnt the district headquarters and a local clinic, he said. There were no immediate reports of casualties.