Attacks kill 19 in Afghanistan

AFP – Fresh attacks in Afghanistan killed 19 people, including six soldiers in a roadside bombing, officials said Wednesday, as the Taliban stepped up its campaign against the government.

The bomb struck an Afghan army vehicle on Wednesday in Paktika province, which is on the border with Pakistan, army commander Murad Ali told AFP.

“This is work of the enemies of Afghanistan,” Ali said, using a term that refers to the extremist Taliban who have increased their attacks after a winter lull.

Hours earlier a suicide attacker blew himself up close to the vehicle of a district governor of Paktika as the official was travelling to work.

“Luckily no one was hurt in the suicide attack,” the interior ministry said in a statement. The Taliban have already targeted several district and provincial governors, killing one last year.

In neighbouring Ghazni province “terrorists” stormed a road construction company site near the main highway between Kabul and Kandahar on Tuesday, sparking a fierce battle that lasted more than six hours, officials said.

When the fighting in Ghazni province was over, three of the company’s guards and seven Taliban were dead, the interior ministry said in a statement. Five militants were arrested, it said.

Provincial police chief Alishah Ahmadzai told AFP three civilians were also missing.

A spokesman for the Taliban, Yousuf Ahmadi, confirmed the movement was behind the attack near Qarabagh, about 180 kilometres (110 miles) southwest of Kabul, but said only three militants were killed, including a commander.

The attackers got away with vehicles and weapons, Ahmadi said.

In another attack, militants ambushed a police vehicle in the western province of Herat overnight and killed three policemen, provincial criminal investigation director Ali Khan told AFP.

The west of Afghanistan, along with the north, was last year relatively free of Taliban-linked violence but the unrest has surged this year.

The militants vowed at the weekend to spread their insurgency into the north.

The extremist Taliban were forced from power in late 2001. Their insurgency claimed more than 4,000 lives in 2006. More than 1,000 people have already been killed in violence this year, most of them rebels.

The number of suicide attacks in January this year — 12 in total — was three times that of the same time last year, a UN Security Council report said in March.

The ultra-Islamic fighters rely on attack-and-run tactics as well as suicide and roadside bombings.

There are more than 50,000 foreign troops helping the fledgling Afghan army and police fight the militants and their allies, who include Al-Qaeda.

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