- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 24, 2011

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A roadside bomb killed 10 workers in southern Afghanistan on Tuesday, and NATO again promised that the coalition would not abandon the country even if some members plan to withdraw their forces.

Also Tuesday, two high-ranking government officials survived attempted assassinations.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that plans to hand over control of seven provinces to Afghan soldiers in July remained on course, despite new bombings and assaults by insurgents.

“Those who threaten Afghanistan’s future should be under no illusion: NATO is and remains committed to Afghanistan,” Mr. Fogh Rasmussen told Afghan President Hamid Karzai, according to a coalition statement.

NATO also acknowledged Tuesday that soldiers shot dead an Afghan holding a flashlight during a raid, something that could add to the growing anti-foreigner sentiment in Afghanistan after nearly a decade of war.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the roadside bombing aimed at workers in Kandahar, which has seen a rise in incidents in recent days as Taliban fighters try to retake territory lost in the past year.

The workers on the truck were employed by the local government in the region to clean up rivers and streams, according to Dr. Qayoum Pakhla, the director of Kandahar Hospital. Ten died, and 28 were injured in the attack.

“I could see people calling for help and crying,” said one of the survivors, who gave his name as Sabdullah. “I saw some of my friends’ dead bodies. I was helpless at that moment.”

Meanwhile, Ahmad Ziad, a deputy chief at the National Directorate for Security, was not injured in an attempted suicide bombing that targeted his car as he was traveling to work in Kabul, police said.

Mr. Ziad’s bodyguards opened fire on a suspicious sport utility vehicle heading toward his convoy, wounding the driver and stopping the speeding SUV laden with explosives, the police said.

The driver was arrested and hospitalized under guard, pending an investigation. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attempt in a message to the Associated Press.

In a separate attack, gunmen opened fire on an armored SUV carrying Helmand provincial Gov. Mohammad Gulab Mangul. A statement from his office said police returned fire, killing two attackers. Mr. Mangul was not injured during the attack.

The growing number of attacks in the insurgents’ spring offensive come as NATO and the United States hope to begin relinquishing control of security to the Afghan military through the end of 2014. President Obama has said the United States, with about 100,000 troops on the ground, will begin a gradual drawdown in July — with the number to be determined by the situation at the time. Other nations plan to draw down their troop levels as well.

Mr. Fogh Rasmussen told journalists in Kabul on Tuesday that the “transition is on track” for the handover of seven of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces in July. Both Mr. Fogh Rasmussen and Mr. Karzai urged insurgent fighters to lay down their weapons and embrace an ongoing peace process.

“By shooting at our own countrymen, we gain nothing but the curse of history and the curse of God,” Mr. Karzai said.

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