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Afghanistan hit by deadliest bombing rampage

A suicide car bomber targeting a Canadian military convoy killed 35 civilians at a busy market in southern Afghanistan, a police official said.
/ Source: The Associated Press

The death toll from two days of militant bombings neared 140 — the deadliest spate in post-Taliban Afghanistan — after a suicide car bomb exploded in a crowded southern market, killing 38 Afghans, officials said.

The marketplace bombing Monday, which targeted a Canadian military convoy, came one day after Afghanistan's deadliest insurgent attack since the Taliban's ouster in 2001. The toll from that blast — set off in a crowd watching a dog fight — rose to more than 100.

The back-to-back bombings in Kandahar province could serve as a warning that insurgents have turned to collateral civilian deaths to further weaken the Kabul government. Though attacks occasionally have killed dozens, insurgents in Afghanistan have generally sought to avoid targeting civilians, unlike attacks that have scarred Baghdad in recent years.

The attacks come amid warnings that Afghanistan this year could fall victim to even more violence than in 2007, when a record 6,500 people — mostly militants — were killed. The U.S., with a record high 28,000 troops in the country, is sending 3,200 more Marines in April.

The Taliban, which has denied it carried out Sunday's attack, immediately claimed responsibility for the marketplace bombing, which took place in the town of Spin Boldak about 100 yards from the border with Pakistan.

"The attacks show that the enemies of Afghanistan are changing their tactics," said Nasrullah Stanikzai, a professor of political science at Kabul University.

"They wanted to cause such big casualties in these attacks to weaken the morale of the government and the international community, to show the world the Afghan government is too weak to prevent them," he said.

Kandahar toll surpasses 100
Hours before the marketplace bombing, Kandahar Gov. Asadullah Khalid raised the toll from Sunday's bombing from about 80 to more than 100, saying some of the scores of critically wounded had died. Khalid said 38 were killed and 28 wounded in Monday's attack. Three Canadian soldiers were also wounded, NATO's International Security Assistance Force said.

The governor also complained that the Canadian forces had failed to heed government warnings to stay away from the border with Pakistan.

"We informed the Canadian forces to avoid patrolling the border areas because our intelligence units had information that suicide attackers were in the areas and wanted to target Canadian or government forces," he said.

A spokesman for the Canadian military couldn't be reached, and a spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force said he had no details on the matter.

One of the Canadian military vehicles was heavily damaged in the attack, as were several shops and civilian vehicles, said Abdul Razeq, the Spin Boldak border police chief.

When asked about the large number of civilians killed, Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi claimed that 10 foreign soldiers and "a large number of police" were killed. The Taliban often make false or exaggerated claims that their attacks killed NATO or U.S. troops.

Meanwhile, Afghans buried relatives and friends who died in Sunday's attack. Officials said the attacker targeted an anti-Taliban militia leader, Abdul Hakim Jan, who died along with 35 of his men, who served on a government auxiliary police force.

Kandahar — the Taliban's former stronghold and Afghanistan's second-largest city — has been the scene of fierce battles between NATO forces and Taliban fighters the last two years.