updated 9/28/2008 11:42:35 AM ET 2008-09-28T15:42:35

Two gunmen on a motorbike shot and killed a high-ranking woman police official in Afghanistan's largest southern city Sunday, while a suicide bomber killed three police and three civilians in the same region.

Malalai Kakar was traveling from her home in Kandahar city to the office Sunday when she was shot, said Zalmai Ayubi, spokesman for the Kandahar provincial governor. Her son, 18, was wounded in the attack, he said.

Kakar, 41, was the head of the department of crimes against women in Kandahar city, Ayubi said.

The Taliban claimed responsibility.

Militants frequently attack projects, schools and businesses run by women. The hard-line Taliban regime, which was ousted in the 2001 U.S.-led invasion, did not allow women outside the home without a male escort.

President condemns assassination
President Hamid Karzai condemned the assassination, as did the European Union, which said it was "appalled by the brutal targeting" of Kakar.

"Any murder of a police officer is to be condemned, but the killing of a female officer whose service was not only to her country, but to Afghan women, to whom Ms. Kakar served as an example, is particularly abhorrent," the EU said in a statement.

Elsewhere in Kandahar province, a suicide bomber on a motorbike attacked a border police convoy in Spin Boldak district, killing three policemen and three civilians, said the regional border police chief, Abdul Razzaq.

The blast wounded 17 others — all but of them civilians, Razzaq said.

Taliban militants use suicide attacks in their campaign against Afghan and foreign troops in the country. The majority of the victims in such bombings are civilians.

In other violence, an Afghan police official said a U.S.-led coalition killed three civilians in an operation apparently targeting a suicide bomb cell in eastern Afghanistan. That claim was disputed by the coalition, which said its troops killed two al-Qaida militants.

Gen. Abdul Jalal Jalal, the provincial police chief in the eastern province of Kunar, said airstrikes hit a compound in the province's Asmar district, killing three civilians.

The U.S.-led coalition said its troops targeted an al-Qaida cell responsible for a number of bomb attacks in Kunar province.

Civilian deaths a source of tension
The coalition said two militants were killed after a firefight in one of the compounds. It said no civilians were killed. Capt. Scott Miller, a U.S. spokesman, said artillery strikes were used in the fight but no airstrikes.

It was impossible to independently verify either report, due to the remoteness of the area.

Civilian deaths are a highly sensitive topic in Afghanistan. Karzai has long pleaded with international troops to avoid civilian deaths in its operations.

The Afghan government and U.N. say that an Aug. 22 U.S. operation killed some 90 civilians in the western province of Herat, a strike that strained U.S.-Afghan relations.

An original U.S. investigation found that up to 35 militants and seven civilians were killed in that strike. However, a new investigation was opened — and is now under way — after video images emerged appearing to show many more dead than the U.S. had acknowledged.

The coalition said separately that it killed six militants and detained eight in two operations on Saturday.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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