- The Washington Times - Monday, September 18, 2006

12:54 p.m.

KAFIR BAND, Afghanistan — A suicide bomber on a bicycle killed four Canadian troops and wounded at least 27 civilians in southern Afghanistan today. Two other blasts in the capital and in the western part of the country killed a total of 13 Afghans, officials said.

The attack in Kandahar province’s Panjwayi district came a day after NATO declared an end to a two-week offensive aimed at driving Taliban militants out of safe havens in the same area. More than 500 insurgents were reported killed in the Canadian-led operation, which NATO described as a success despite continuing violence in the south.

Maj. Luke Knittig, a NATO spokesman, said the blast killed four NATO soldiers and “wounded a number of others, including civilians.” Karen Johnstone, a spokeswoman for the Canadian military in Ottawa, said four Canadian soldiers were killed.

NATO said in a later statement that 27 Afghan civilians had been wounded, including children.

An Afghan official said the bomber targeted Canadian troops handing out candy to children and killed and wounded dozens of people. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters.

However, Fazel Mohammed, who lives near the blast site, and another villager disputed the account, saying few children were in the village at the time of the blast.

Qari Yousaf Ahmadi, who claims to be a spokesman for Taliban affairs in southern Afghanistan, said the bomber was an Afghan from Kandahar named Mullah Qudrat Ullah.

Ahmadi, whose exact ties to the militants are not known, said by telephone from an undisclosed location that militants would continue attacking U.S., NATO and other coalition forces.

Most of Afghanistan’s recent surge in violence has taken place in volatile southern provinces, where some 8,000 NATO forces took military control from the U.S.-led coalition on Aug. 1. NATO commanders say they need another 2,500 troops plus greater air support to crush the Taliban threat more quickly.

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