Afghanistan reels after suicide attacks kill 26

Afghanistan’s border town of Spin Boldak was in shock on Tuesday after one of the biggest suicide bombings since the Taliban’s fall in 2001 killed 22 people leaving a wrestling match.

Monday’s bombing in the town on the Pakistan border struck hours after another suicide blast in the nearby city of Kandahar killed three soldiers and a civilian.

The attacks, just one day after a Canadian diplomat and two Afghans were killed in a suicide bombing near Kandahar, added to fears that tactics used by Iraqi insurgents are being imported into Afghanistan.

Most of the shops in the commercial town of Spin Boldak, in Kandahar province, did not open for business on Tuesday as people milled around the site of the blast, which left a 20-square-metre crater in the ground.

Dozens of others rushed into the town’s only clinic to identify relatives killed in the blast.

A mangled motorcycle—likely that of the attacker—and a burnt-out police vehicle were also at the site, an Agence France-Presse correspondent said.

District police chief Abdul Wassey told Agence France-Presse the death toll had risen by two to 22, with at least another 27 hurt.

“Personally I helped evacuate 22 people who were wounded,” he said.

The attacker blew himself up in a crowd of people leaving a wrestling match in a field about a kilometre from the centre of town.

“I saw a big fire and a couple of vehicles on fire and I estimate around 30 people were lying either dead or wounded,” said witness Ahmadullah Jan. “There were screams and blood everywhere.”

Doctors at a hospital just across the border in the Pakistani town of Chaman said around 30 people were wounded, 12 of them seriously.

Fifteen bodies were also brought over, doctor Abdul Nasir Achakzai said.

The Taliban, which was ousted in a United States-led invasion in late 2001, denied it had carried out the attack, saying it did not target civilians.

“We strongly condemn this attack on innocent people. The Taliban leadership convey their condolences to the relatives of the victims,” said spokesperson Qari Yousuf Ahmadi.

Ahmadi had claimed responsibility on behalf of the Taliban for the Kandahar blast hours earlier.

In that attack an “explosives-laden vehicle” rammed into an Afghan National Army convoy, killing three soldiers and wounding five others, said defence ministry spokesperson General Mohammad Zahir Azimi.

A civilian also died and 10 were wounded, a doctor said.

The attacks were the latest in a wave of more than 20 suicide bombings in the past four months aimed at US-led forces, their Nato allies and Afghan troops.

On January 5, ten people were killed and 50 wounded in a suicide bomb attack in central Uruzgan province during a visit by US ambassador Ronald Neumann.

Kandahar province governor Asadullah Khalid accused neighbouring Pakistan of failing to crack down on militants along the porous border, echoing a common complaint by Afghan officials.

“These kind of attacks are carried out by those elements who are being equipped and trained in Pakistan,” he said.

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan condemned the violence as an “unacceptable assault upon the peace process”, a UN statement said.

Analysts and some military officials have said the spike in suicide attacks showed the increased influence of al-Qaeda, which was sheltered by the Taliban regime.

The US-led coalition hunting down insurgents in the country said however it did not see a trend of Iraq-style attacks.

“The equipment is not as complex as what we see in Iraq. In fact, numerous IEDs [improvised explosive devices] fail to detonate or detonate prematurely here,” spokesperson Colonel Jim Yonts said.

“So we see nothing that ties the two together, other than that the focus of attacks is on the civilian population, religious leaders and non-governmental organisations and is intended to break the will of the Afghan people and Afghan and coalition forces.” - AFP

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