- Associated Press - Sunday, August 12, 2012

KABUL, Afghanistan — A roadside bomb killed a district government chief and three of his bodyguards Sunday in eastern Afghanistan, officials said.

The attack was just the latest violent incident in a bloody weekend that showed the country remains unstable, as NATO aims to hand over security responsibility to local forces at the end of 2014 after more than a decade of warfare against al Qaeda and Taliban terrorists.

The Afghan government’s top official in Laghman province’s Alishang district was driving to a meeting with the bodyguards when his car was blown up on the road, provincial spokesman Sarhadi Zewak said.

Mr. Zewak said the provincial government believes district chief Faridullah Niazi was targeted by insurgents.

Such assassinations of people allied with the government or international forces have surged this year.

The United Nations reported last week that civilian deaths from such killings jumped 34 percent in the first six months of 2012 to 255 people killed, compared with 190 in the first half of 2011. The victims ranged from police to village elders who worked on programs with U.S.-led international forces.

“Targeted killings, abduction and intimidations have created a climate of fear among officials and deter them from taking up positions and working in these areas,” the U.N. report said.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the Sunday bombing, but it fit the pattern of Taliban assassinations of government workers.

In the south, officials said a Taliban attack on a police checkpoint on Saturday night sparked a gunbattle that left two police officers and two Afghan civilians dead.

Afghan forces were pursuing the attackers in Kandahar province’s Panjwai district on Sunday, said Ahmad Jawed Faisel, a spokesman for the province.

Recent days have been particularly violent in Afghanistan. On Saturday, an Afghan police officer killed 11 of his fellow officers in a remote corner of western Afghanistan. Officials said the shooter, who was killed in an ensuing gunbattle, was believed to have ties to militants.

On Friday, two Afghans shot and killed six U.S. troops in separate attacks in Helmand province in the south in the latest in a rising number of so-called “green-on-blue” attacks in which supposed Afghan colleagues or allies have gone after international forces.

The Afghan Interior Ministry said one of the attackers was wearing a security forces uniform and the second was a “guest” at the police station where he opened fire.