- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 15, 2011

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Two bombings Tuesday killed a local legislator and a school principal, the latest of a series of attacks as the top U.S. commander was trying to persuade Congress that NATO is making progress against insurgents.

Gen. David H. Petraeus was pleading for increased congressional funding as militants assassinated Afghan politicians and bombed security forces in a campaign that could undermine his appeal.

On Tuesday, provincial council member Malang Malik was killed by a remote-controlled bomb as he walked near his home in Laghman province in northeast Afghanistan, said government spokesman Kochai Nasery. The blast also injured a relative of Mr. Malik’s, the former head of the provincial council.

A bomb planted in a school office in neighboring Nangarhar province killed principal Bahram Khail Salehi and wounded another school employee as children arrived for classes, spokesman Ahmad Zia Abdulzai said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks.

Afghan and international observers have said the bombings are part of a sweeping intimidation campaign staged by Afghan militants that has claimed the lives of hundreds of civilians this year.

On Monday a suicide bomber detonated his explosive vest outside an army recruiting station in Kunduz, killing 35 new volunteers. It was the second time the recruiting station had been bombed in four months.

The Red Cross described a “a dramatic deterioration in the security situation for ordinary Afghans,” in a statement issued Tuesday by its Afghanistan office. The Red Cross said that escalating violence against civilians in the first two months of 2011 shuttered clinics, blocked roads and jeopardized health care in conflict areas. The violence is also threatening the ability of the Red Cross to operate in the country, according to the statement.

This month, the United Nations released a report that counted 2,777 civilians killed in 2010, an increase of 15 percent over 2009. The majority of those deaths, 2,080 people, were civilians killed by “anti-government elements,” according to the report.

While warning of intensified fighting during the approaching spring, NATO commanders say they are making gains against the Taliban and other rebel groups, especially in southern Afghanistan.

Gen. Petraeus, in prepared remarks to Congress that were leaked before his testimony, claimed that the Taliban’s momentum “has been arrested in much of the country and reversed in a number of important areas.”


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