- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 27, 2011

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A station wagon packed with Afghan civilians struck a roadside bomb in western Afghanistan, triggering an explosion that killed 16 people, 11 of them children, Afghan officials said.

The vehicle was traveling in Herat province’s Shindand district when it hit the bomb, said Mohammad Salim, the police garrison chief for the district. Another four people in the car were wounded, he said.

Those in the car were part of the same extended family, Chief Salim said. He did not provide further details. Provincial spokesman Muhiuddin Noori confirmed the casualty figures.

Civilians have been the overwhelming victims of the rise in violence in Afghanistan this year. Though civilian deaths attributed to NATO forces have decreased, a rise in roadside bombs and insurgent attacks means that more civilians are being killed.

Meanwhile, more details emerged about this week’s killing of an American CIA employee in Kabul. A U.S. Embassy spokesman said that the dead worker was a facility maintenance employee.

An Afghan police officer (left) looks at a police vehicle damaged in a suicide attack in Lashkar Gah in Afghanistan's Helmand province on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2011. (AP Photo/Abdul Khaleq)
An Afghan police officer (left) looks at a police vehicle damaged in ... more >

“He provided essential support for the maintenance of the U.S. annex in Kabul,” Gavin Sundwall said. “He was described to me as a valued member of the team, and he will be sorely missed.” U.S. officials have not named the complex as a CIA office, but former intelligence officials have confirmed that it was used by the CIA.

The American was shot dead Sunday evening by an Afghan worker at the building. Mr. Sundwall said previous reports that the Afghan worker was not authorized to carry a weapon inside the complex were premature and that it was unclear whether that was the case.

A U.S. official in Washington said the Afghan attacker was providing security to the CIA office and that the American who died was working as a contractor for the CIA. The official requested anonymity because he was speaking about intelligence matters.

In the south on Tuesday, a suicide bomber rammed an explosives-packed vehicle into a police truck, killing two civilians.

The attacker in the southern city of Lashkar Gah, the main city in Helmand province, apparently was waiting in the car at the gates of the police headquarters just outside a bakery where officers regularly buy bread in the morning, said the deputy provincial police chief, Kamaluddin Sherzai. The bomber then slammed into a police truck that was parked at the shop, triggering the bomb, he said.

Two civilians — one man and one young boy — were killed in the blast, said provincial government spokesman Daoud Ahmadi. Another 26 people were wounded, including 10 police officers and six children, he said.

Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi claimed responsibility for the Lashkar Gah attack.

Hours earlier, the Taliban released a formal statement rejecting claims that the insurgency has become splintered or that the group or any of their allies have ties to the Pakistani government.

The statement said the Taliban insurgency “is at its strongest and unified more than it has been at any other stage,” and the the Taliban denied that the movement has bases in Pakistan.

The claim runs contrary to U.S. and international assertions that the Taliban retains numerous safe havens and bases in Pakistan’s tribal areas, used to stage attacks into neighboring Afghanistan.

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