- The Washington Times - Monday, March 16, 2009

KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN (AP) - A suicide bomber wearing a police uniform blew himself up inside a police headquarters in southern Afghanistan on Monday, killing nine people and wounding at least 24 others _ mostly police, officials said.

The bombing followed a surge in violence in Afghanistan over the weekend that led to the deaths of eight foreign troops _ including four Americans.

The bomber Monday set off his explosives after slipping inside the main police building in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province, while the police were exercising, said Asadullah Sherzad, the provincial police chief.

Nine people were killed and 24 were wounded, said Ayatullah Ghafari, an official at Lashkar Gah hospital, where the dead and wounded were taken.

Police official Kamal Uddin said eight of those killed and 21 of the wounded were police officers. The rest were civilians.

The attack is most likely the work of Taliban militants, who regularly use suicide bombers in their attacks against Afghan and foreign forces in the country.

The lightly armed police force has suffered greatly in Taliban attacks, with more than 800 officers killed in 2008 alone.

Southern Afghanistan is the center of the Taliban insurgency. The U.S. is sending thousands of new troops to the south this year to try to reverse Taliban gains. The Islamic militants have made a violent comeback the last three years following an apparent initial defeat after the 2001 U.S. invasion.

Attacks in Helmand over the weekend killed three British troops, while a roadside bomb in the east Sunday killed four U.S. troops. A French soldier was also killed in a clash on Saturday, making the weekend one of the deadliest two-day periods for international troops in weeks.

The spike in violence is an early indication that roadside bombs and other ambushes are likely to surge as some 17,000 U.S. forces arrive in Afghanistan this year to bolster the record 38,000 Americans already in the country.

In other violence Monday, a suicide attacker in the western province of Farah shot and killed a policeman outside a government building, then entered the building and detonated a suicide bomb, wounding two civilians, said Rauf Ahmadi, a police spokesman in western Afghanistan.

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