By Ali Safi, McClatchy Newspapers –
KABUL, Afghanistan — A series of Taliban bombings targeted police officers across Afghanistan on Thursday, killing nine officers and a civilian, local officials said.
The deadliest attack took place in southern Kandahar province when a suicide bomber detonated his explosives-laden vehicle at the entrance to the Arghistan district police headquarters at 9:45 a.m. Javid Faisal, a spokesman for the provincial governor, said four police officers and one civilian were killed and an additional 12 people — including five schoolchildren — were wounded. Arghistan is near the border with Pakistan.
In another incident, a blast at a police checkpoint in the eastern province of Nangarhar, on the outskirts of the capital, Jalalabad, killed two officers, said Ahmad Zia Abdulzai, the spokesman for the provincial governor.
In northern Kunduz province, a vehicle carrying the local anti-terrorism chief struck a roadside bomb in the Dashte Archi district, killing the official, Malem Qamar, and two other police officers, said Sayed Sarwar Hussaini, a spokesman for the Kunduz police chief. Two police officers and a civilian were wounded in the blast.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attacks on their website, calling it part of their spring offensive, which they’ve dubbed “al-Farooq.” That’s the surname of the second man to succeed the Prophet Muhammad as the leader of the Islamic faith.
The attacks came a day after the United Nations released new figures showing that civilian casualties in Afghanistan dropped by 21 percent in the first four months of this year, compared with a year ago.
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan recorded 579 civilian deaths and 1,216 wounded from January through April, said the ranking U.N. official in Afghanistan, Jan Kubis. He attributed 79 percent of the civilian casualties to Taliban-led insurgents and 9 percent to U.S.-led coalition and Afghan forces. Twelve percent remained unattributed.
The Taliban’s usual tactics in targeting Afghan and coalition forces — planting homemade bombs and carrying out suicide bombings — kill “indiscriminately everyone who is around,” Kubis said.
On Thursday, the U.S.-led NATO coalition in Afghanistan confirmed that a homemade bomb had killed one of its soldiers in southern Afghanistan, but it wouldn’t provide further details.
In a separate incident in southern Helmand province, security forces stopped a suicide attacker, who was wearing a police uniform and carrying an employment application, when he tried to enter the district governor’s compound in Nawa district. The bomber blew himself up outside the entrance, killing himself but causing no other casualties, provincial officials said.
On May 13, the Afghan government announced the launch of the third stage in its transfer of security responsibilities from international troops to Afghan forces. This phase covers all the provincial centers throughout the country, but Faisal, the spokesman in Kandahar province, said security in the districts close to the volatile Pakistani border — such as Arghistan — wouldn’t be transferred to Afghan control until the next phase.
Kandahar province, the birthplace of the Taliban, has long has been a center of the insurgency. Coalition and Afghan troops poured into the area beginning in 2010 in an effort to force out the insurgents, but sporadic violence continues.