Monday, January 16, 2006

KABUL, Afghanistan — Two suicide bomb attacks killed at least 24 persons in southern Afghanistan yesterday, making it one of the deadliest days since U.S.-led coalition forces ousted Taliban rulers in 2001.

A man on a motorbike detonated explosives strapped to his body near a crowd of about 100 people watching a wrestling match at a fair in Spin Boldak, a key crossing point into southern Pakistan, killing 20 persons and wounding at least 30 others.

“The wrestling match was about to end when the explosion occurred,” said Kandahar provincial Gov. Asadullah Khalid.

The attack came hours after a bomb blasted a convoy of Afghan army trucks loaded with troops in the southern city of Kandahar, killing four persons and wounding 16.

He said more than 20 people were wounded, at least five seriously. But a government administrator in the neighboring Pakistani town of Chaman said more than 30 people injured in the explosion were treated in a hospital there, including many in critical condition.

It was third bombing in Kandahar province, a former Taliban stronghold, in the past two days, and the bloodiest in a series of about 25 suicide attacks across the country in the past four months.

Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Mohammed Zahir Azimi said the attack on the Afghan army convoy was a suicide car bombing. But the army commander in Kandahar, Maj. Gen. Rehmatullah Raufi, said it was a roadside bomb.

The open-backed trucks were returning to Kandahar, about 50 miles northwest of Spin Boldak, from an operation outside the city when they were hit by the blast near a crowded market, both officials said.

One soldier and three passers-by were killed, and six troops and 10 civilians were wounded, Gen. Raufi said.

On Sunday, a suicide car bomb in Kandahar killed a senior Canadian diplomat and two Afghan civilians and wounded three Canadian troops — part of a new NATO-led deployment in the volatile south of Afghanistan.

Suicide attacks are a relatively new tactic for militants here and one that has reinforced fears that this country may see more assaults modeled on those in Iraq.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai yesterday urged nations not to turn their backs on his country four years after the ouster of the radical Taliban, warning that the nation could again be used as a staging area for terrorists to attack Europe and America.

Speaking at his palace in Kabul ahead of a foreign donors’ conference in London later this month, Mr. Karzai said his nation will need assistance for a long time.

“We are in a joint struggle against terrorism, for us and for the international community,” he told reporters. “If you don’t defend yourself here, you will have to defend yourself back home, in European capitals and Americans’ capitals.”

Also yesterday, U.S. military spokesman Col. James Yonts said U.S.-led coalition and Afghan forces had killed five suspected militants late Friday in eastern Khost province.

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