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Suicide Bomber Kills 18 in Afghanistan
Prospective pilgrims to Mecca among dead
Daud Khan (aimalkhan)     Print Article 
Published 2006-09-26 23:14 (KST)   
A provincial governor escaped an assassination attempt while 18 Afghans died as a suicide bomber detonated himself at the entrance of the governor's office in southern Afghanistan Tuesday morning.

The dead included 12 common citizens and six soldiers who were present at the gate of the governor's house and intercepted the bomber as he tried to slip inside, said a senior provincial official.

The majority of the civilians who died in the explosion were said to be prospective pilgrims who were present outside the provincial office of the Ministry of Haj to collect forms to register their names to visit Mecca. Thousands of Muslims from all over the world each year visit Mecca in Saudi Arabia to perform Haj, the fifth organ of Islam.

The blast took place in Afghanistan's restive Helmand province, the hub of poppy growers and a safe-haven for the anti-government Taliban militants. Britain has deployed some 5,000 troops to the province as part of the 26-member NATO alliance's counter-insurgency operations in the area.

A spokesman for the provincial government,told journalists 18 people, 12 of them civilians and six policemen, were killed and 17 others wounded in the suicide bomb attack. He said the governor of Helmand province, Mohammad Daud, was present in his office at the time of the blast.

The blast took place when the bomber, who had strapped the explosives around his waist, was stopped by policemen at the first gate of the entrance leading to the office of the governor.

The attack comes in the wake of several other incidents in the area. The governor of neighbouring Paktia province, Hakim Taniwal, was assassinated in a similar attack recently. On Sept. 25, two armed motorcyclists shot dead a women rights activist and head of the Women Affairs Department under the Ministry of Women Affairs Safia Amajan in the southern province of Kandahar.

Afghanistan's southern provinces of Helmand, Kandahar, Zabul and Uruzgan are the center of Taliban resistance against the U.S.-backed government in Kabul and the foreign forces.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the Tuesday's blast and said majority of the dead were Afghan police and NATO soldiers. The Taliban's apparent spokesman Qari Yousaf said the attack was carried out by one of their members belonging to the province.

About six months back, The Taliban commander Mulla Dadullah had warned that they had prepared a squad of suicide bombers to target foreign forces and Afghan officials. Dadullah was one of the leading frontline commanders during the Taliban regime in Kabul.

One month ago, a suicide blast, targeting a communist-era police chief in a crowded market in the same province had killed 17 people and injured about three dozens. Fifteen of the dead were schoolchildren.
©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Daud Khan

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