Suicide bomber kills 37 in Afghanistan: government

The attack, a day after more than 100 people were killed in the deadliest suspected suicide raid since the Taliban were overthrown in 2001, comes as some Western politicians call for a stronger resolve to stop Afghanistan sliding back into anarchy.

“The suicide attack … caused the killing of 37 non-combatants and wounding of 30 others,” the ministry said in a statement in Kabul.

The attack happened on a narrow bridge in the bustling town of Spin Boldak in southern Kandahar province, a stronghold for Taliban insurgents fighting the Afghan government and its Western backers.

Kandahar’s governor Assadullah Khalid told a news conference the bomber was in a car and had attacked a convoy of Canadian troops serving under NATO’s command. Four Canadians were wounded, he said. But another official from the area said two foreign soldiers also died.

A NATO spokesman in Kabul confirmed the blast, but refused to provide more details. Several fuel shops were on fire in Spin Boldak after the bombing, witnesses said.

The attack was carried out by a Taliban member called Abdul Rahman, a Taliban spokesman, Qari Mohammad Yousuf, was quoted as saying by the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press.

Ten foreign and a number of Afghan soldiers were killed in the blast, the agency quoted him as saying, rejecting government’s accounts about civilian casualties.

Despite the presence of more than 50,000 foreign soldiers led by NATO and the U.S. military, as well as some 140,000 Afghan troops, Taliban militants have made a comeback in the past two years and more than 11,000 people have been killed in violence.

Sunday’s attack happened as a crowd of people were watching dog fights in Arghandab, on the western outskirts of Kandahar city. Dozens of victims were buried side-by-side in a mourning ceremony on Monday.

Provincial governor Khalid accused the Taliban of that attack, but the insurgents denied responsibility.

Khalid said he had intelligence about Monday’s attack and had tipped off the Canadian forces about it.

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday she saw no need to change parliamentary mandates limiting the number of troops her government can send to Afghanistan, despite mounting pressure from NATO allies.

“We are not changing the mandates as they are at the moment,” Merkel told reporters. “I see no need for a change at the moment.”

Germany, which has roughly 3,300 troops in Afghanistan, is under pressure from allies, particularly the United States, to send additional soldiers and shift them from the north to the more dangerous south to help battle Taliban insurgents.

The main mandate, due to expire in October, allows Germany to send a maximum of 3,500 soldiers to Afghanistan. German media have reported Merkel’s government seeks to increase the number of troops.

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