KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, (Reuters):
TALIBAN SUICIDE bombers killed at least 26 people in two separate attacks in southern Afghanistan yesterday, a day after a Canadian diplomat and two civilians were killed in another attack in the area.
The combined toll was the worst in a day from suicide bombings in Afghanistan since United States-led forces overthrew the Taliban in late 2001 and came just hours after President Hamid Karzai expressed concern about an increase in such attacks.
An adviser to Karzai said the aim of the insurgents appeared to be to frighten NATO members who plan to deploy in the volatile south and donors who are due to meet in London at the end of the month to draw up a new long-term assistance plan.
At least 20 people died in the town of Spin Boldak, bordering Pakistan, when a bomber on a motorcycle detonated a device after riding into a playground where hundreds of people had gathered for a festival, officials said.
At least 20 people were hurt in the attack, which the Afghan Islamic Press said happened during a wrestling contest.
CREATE INSECURITY AND FEAR
"It was a suicide attack," Spin Boldak police chief Abdul Wasi Alekozai told Reuters. "The person rode his motorbike into the crowd and blew himself up. The intention of this attack was to create insecurity and fear."
Earlier, another suicide bomber hurled himself in front of an Afghan army vehicle in the heart of the provincial capital, Kandahar, 110 km (70 miles) to the north, killing three Afghan soldiers and two civilians.
Four Afghan soldiers and 10 civilians were also wounded.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for both bombings.
Taliban official Mullah Sabir Momin said the attack in Spin Boldak had been aimed at the commander of the Afghan border force, General Abdul Raziq, but he was not at the event.
He said seven Afghan soldiers were among the dead.
"We plan more attacks on Afghan army commanders, because they support the U.S. presence in Afghanistan," he said.
Assadullah, a witness to the bombing in Kandahar city, said the attacker appeared to be a teenager.
"I saw a boy of about 15 with an explosive's vest running towards the car and then heard the explosion," he said. "I ran for cover and saw the casualties when I got up."
Flesh and blood could be seen scattered around at the scene.
Speaking at his fortified palace in Kabul, Karzai said increased use of suicide attacks showed Taliban desperation.
However, he added: "They cause insecurity, worry among people ... disrupt life. They are a matter of concern for us ... we will use all means to prevent them."