- The Washington Times - Monday, August 3, 2009

KABUL (AP) — A remote-controlled bomb exploded Monday in western Afghanistan’s main city, killing 10 people and critically wounding a district police chief — the main target of the attack.

The bomb went off on a crowded street near a fruit market in Herat. It injured 30 people, said Raouf Ahmedi, the top police spokesman in western Afghanistan.

The target was Mohammad Issa, the police chief for nearby Injil district, who was driving into town. He was transferred to a NATO-run hospital in critical condition, Ahmedi said.

Local police officials initially reported 12 dead. But the head of the regional health department, Dr. Ghulam Said Rashid, confirmed 10 were killed: a woman, a young girl, six men and two police officers.

Ahmedi said the blast blew out windows in a 100-yard (meter) radius and several casualties were fruit vendors. Witnesses said the bomb left a one-yard (meter) wide crater in the street and damaged two police vehicles.

A Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, said the group targeted the police chief.

Meanwhile in the north of the country, an ambush on Korean road engineers left one of their Afghan drivers dead on Monday, an official said. The attack occurred at a construction site where a large number of Korean engineers and Afghan workers were building a road, said Abdelsatar Barez, the deputy governor for Faryab province, which borders Turkmenistan.

A day earlier, insurgents attacked a northern police checkpoint in the old city of Baghlan, the Interior Ministry said. Eight militants and two police died in the ensuing gunbattle, the ministry said in a statement Monday.

The violence in comparatively calm cities like Herat, near the border with Iran, and Baghlan highlight the volatile situation across the country as Afghanistan braces for presidential and local elections later this month.

President Hamid Karzai, considered the front-runner, condemned Monday’s bombing and urged police to track down its perpetrators. “This is another attempt by the terrorists to disrupt democracy and development in Afghanistan,” Karzai said in a statement issued by his office.

Some 101,000 NATO and U.S. forces are deployed to secure the country. This includes a record 62,000 U.S. troops, more than double the number a year ago but still half their strength in Iraq.

Nine troops have been killed in fighting or bombings this month in Afghanistan, including three Americans on Sunday and three on Saturday, along with two Canadians and one French.

July was the deadliest month for international troops since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion to oust the Taliban government for sheltering al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, with 74 foreign troops — including 43 Americans — killed.

Roadside bombs have become the militants’ weapon of choice in Afghanistan, and the number of such attacks has spiked this year.

U.S. troops say militants are now using bombs with little or no metal, making them even harder to detect. The Taliban are also planting multiple bombs on top of one another and burying several bombs in one small area.

U.S. commanders have long predicted a rise in violence in Afghanistan this summer, the country’s traditional fighting season, and Taliban militants have vowed to disrupt the country’s Aug. 20 presidential vote.

Associated Press writer Rahim Faiez contributed to this report.

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