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The Taliban “want to expand their influence — show that they are everywhere,” said Afghan political analyst Jawid Kohistani. “They want to show that the Afghan police are not strong enough, so they are targeting the security forces and the government.”

Gen. John Allen, the top commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, said Tuesday’s attacks were “acts of intentional mass murder.”

“By targeting innocent civilians in populated areas, the insurgents have again shown they will kill noncombatants without hesitation to advance their backward-looking plans for Afghanistan,” Gen. Allen said in a statement. “Once again, I call on (Afghan Taliban leader) Mullah Omar to rein in his murderers. His intentions not to target civilians are hollow.”

In past statements, Mullah Omar has asked his fighters to avoid civilian casualties. In one message in 2010, for instance, he said, “Pay attention to the life and property of the civilians so that … your jihad activities will not become a cause for destruction of property and loss of life of people.”

The United Nations reported last week that civilian deaths were lower in the first six months of 2012 than in the first half of 2011, but that an onslaught of summer attacks from insurgents was threatening to reverse that trend.

In all, 1,145 civilians were killed in Afghanistan between January and June of this year, according to the U.N. report.