- The Washington Times - Monday, September 18, 2006

KAFIR BAND, Afghanistan — Three suicide bombers killed at least 19 persons across Afghanistan yesterday, including four Canadian soldiers in an attack that tested NATO’s claim of success in driving insurgents from this volatile southern region.

The deadliest attack was in the usually calm western city of Herat, where a militant strapped with explosives and riding a motorbike killed 11 persons and wounded 18, including the deputy police chief, officials said.

The third attack, a car bombing in the capital, Kabul, killed at least four policemen and wounded one officer and 10 civilians.

Afghanistan has been suffering the heaviest insurgent attacks since the Taliban was toppled in late 2001, and the bombings came a day after NATO ended a two-week offensive against Taliban fighters in this region that the commander called a “significant success.”

“It does appear that they are resorting to these despicable tactics after the pressure we have them under in their strongholds,” a NATO spokesman, Maj. Luke Knittig, said in Kabul.

NATO’s Operation Medusa centered on southern Kandahar province’s Panjwayi district, where the first of yesterday’s suicide bombings killed four Canadian infantrymen delivering aid and wounded an unspecified number of other troops, the Canadian military said.

The bombing was claimed by a purported Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousaf Ahmadi, in a telephone call.

NATO said 25 civilians also were wounded in the blast in Kafir Band, a clutch of mud-brick homes surrounded by grape and pomegranate orchards.

“Fifty to 60 soldiers were patrolling on the main street when a man on a bicycle stopped and blew himself up near the forces,” said Fazel Mohammed, a farmer who lives near the blast site.

He said most of the village’s 25 families fled the fighting and only the poor stayed behind.

The explosion tore through the Canadian patrol, shredding uniforms and military equipment.

The commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. David Richards, said the attack took place as Canadian troops were arranging aid, reconstruction and development for villagers in the district, which suffered heavy damage during the NATO offensive.

“It is beyond comprehension that a suicide bomber should choose this time to attack, knowing that he could kill innocent children,” Gen. Richards said.

At least 36 Canadian soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan since 2002. Five died during Operation Medusa, in which NATO estimated it killed at least 510 insurgents with air strikes and ground assaults.

On Sunday, Gen. Richards called Operation Medusa a success and said NATO had reclaimed crucial territory from the Taliban.

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