KABUL, Afghanistan — A suicide bomber assassinated a provincial governor Sunday, and the U.S. military warned that a terrorist cell had set up in the Afghan capital to target foreign troops.
In the south, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization said it had killed at least 94 Taliban fighters in airstrikes and ground attacks, pushing the reported death toll from a nine-day counterinsurgency operation past 420. A top local official said the battle was winding down, and residents said hundreds of militants had fled the area.
The wave of violence, on the eve of the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States, has cast a grim shadow over Afghanistan. The war-racked country is experiencing its worst bout of fighting since the U.S.-led ouster of the Islamist Taliban government in late 2001.
A purported Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for the assassination of Paktia Gov. Abdul Hakim Taniwal outside his office in the town of Gardez at lunchtime. A man with explosives strapped to his body ran toward Taniwal's car and blew himself up, also killing Taniwal's nephew and bodyguard and wounding three police officers, U.S. and Afghan officials said.
The U.S. military, meanwhile, said a suicide bombing cell was operating in Kabul, with the aim of targeting foreign troops. It was another sign that Afghan insurgents had adopted some of the tactics used in Iraq and were expanding their operations beyond the volatile south and east.
"This cell is alive and working and remains very much a threat," Col. Tom Collins, the chief U.S. spokesman, said at a news conference in Kabul.
"Even though international forces may be the target ... the vast majority of victims are civilians."