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9 dead in ambush of Afghan police convoy

At least eight civilians and one policeman were killed and around 25 people were wounded when insurgents ambushed a police convoy in Afghanistan's southern Kandahar on Tuesday, an official said.
Image:
A man wounded in a blast is brought to a hospital in Kandahar city on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2010. Two explosions rocked Kandahar, where U.S. and Afghan forces are ramping up operations in areas long held by the Taliban.Allauddin Khan / AP
/ Source: Reuters

At least eight civilians and one policeman were killed and around 25 people were wounded when insurgents ambushed a police convoy in Afghanistan's southern Kandahar on Tuesday, an official said.

Violence in Afghanistan is at its worst since U.S.-backed Afghan forces overthrew the Taliban in late 2001, despite the presence of nearly 150,000 foreign troops in the country.

While insurgents normally target Afghan and foreign forces, civilians often bear the brunt of the attacks. According to the United Nations, civilian deaths jumped by 31 percent in the first half of this year compared with the same period in 2009.

'Nobody will drive and take fuel to NATO'

Militants attacked the police patrol on the outskirts of Kandahar city with several ambushes and there were at least five separate explosions, the provincial governor's spokesman Zalmay Ayubi said.

"People in the area gathered at the scene of the first blast when the second one went off," Ayubi said, adding that most of the victims were from the second explosion.

Hospital officials said several of the victims were women and children with severe wounds.

No troops from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) were involved in the incident, an ISAF spokesman said.

Bloody year for foreign troops
The Kandahar attack is the latest in a string of such incidents in a volatile area where thousands of U.S.-led troops have begun an offensive around the provincial capital in an attempt to drive insurgents away from the population.

This year has been the bloodiest for foreign troops in Afghanistan. More than 2,000 have died since the start of the war, over half of those in the last two years alone.

On Tuesday, ISAF said one of its troops had been killed in a blast in the south of the country. It gave no further details.

A former governor of Afghanistan district in Kandahar and the deputy mayor of Kandahar city were also killed on Monday by insurgents in two separate attacks in the province, ISAF said on Tuesday.

While targeting foreign and Afghan troops, insurgents have also stepped up attacks singling out local officials in their bid to destabilize the government. An average of 21 people were reported assassinated each week, the United Nations said in a recent report, compared with seven a week earlier this year.

On Monday, two policemen were killed and 11 more wounded after three explosions struck near a troop convoy traveling out of Kandahar city.

On Thursday, three civilians were killed and nine were wounded when a suicide bomber blew himself up beside a convoy of NATO troops in Kandahar.

Surging violence and casualties in the war's ninth year are worrying for U.S. President Barack Obama and his NATO allies as they come under growing pressure at home over the unpopular conflict against the Taliban.

The Taliban are enjoying a military resurgence just as Obama prepares for a review of U.S. Afghan policy and promises to start withdrawing troops from the country from the middle of next year.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai wants his military to take the lead in security across the country in 2014. Increasingly, Afghan officials and others see some form of negotiation with the Taliban as the most likely way to end the conflict.