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THE WORLD

Afghan blasts kill 2 doctors, 6 youngsters

Suicide attack on U.N. medical convoy sparks outcry. Authorities say the children died while playing with a bomb.

September 15, 2008|M. Karim Faiez and Laura King | Special to The Times

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN — A suicide bomber struck a United Nations convoy Sunday in southern Afghanistan, killing two Afghan doctors and their driver on their way to provide polio vaccinations to children.

Separately, at least six children were killed while playing with what Afghan authorities said was a roadside bomb planted by the Taliban and aimed at foreign troops. Abdul Rahim Daisiwal, the chief of Andar district, said more than a dozen other children were injured in the blast.

The suicide attack on the U.N. convoy in Kandahar province, which injured five guards and 10 passersby, was condemned by U.N. officials and the commander of Western forces in Afghanistan.

Providing humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan is an endeavor increasingly fraught with peril. At least two dozen foreign and Afghan aid workers have been killed this year, exceeding last year's total, and a group that tracks violence against humanitarian organizations says the number of such attacks has increased by 50%.

The doctors killed Sunday were working under contract for the U.N.'s World Health Organization. They were en route to a vaccination drive in the Spin Buldak district near Pakistan when their convoy, clearly marked with U.N. insignia, was hit. Polio is endemic along the Afghan-Pakistani frontier.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but suspicion fell on Taliban militants, who have justified attacks against aid workers by declaring them to be in league with Western troops.

"This attack was on innocent civilians working only for the people of Afghanistan and is beyond comprehension," said Kai Eide, the top U.N. official in the country.

Army Gen. David D. McKiernan, the American commander of NATO's International Security Assistance Force, also denounced Taliban attacks on noncombatants.

"The insurgents have no concern for innocent civilians, regardless of nationality, who are only here to help Afghans rebuild their country," McKiernan said in a statement.

Western forces have themselves been the focus of Afghan anger over a growing tally of civilian deaths and injuries. A senior U.S. military officer is to lead a re-investigation of a U.S.-led strike on Aug. 22 in Herat province that Afghan authorities and the United Nations say killed 90 people, at least two-thirds of them women and children.

U.S. military officials have acknowledged only seven civilian deaths in the airstrike in the village of Azizabad.

Afghan officials have said they believe coalition forces were unwittingly drawn into a clan vendetta and duped into carrying out the raid. The Interior Ministry disclosed Sunday that three men were arrested last week and accused of providing false information to the U.S.-led forces that led to the strike on the village.

American military authorities, however, have said the raid was aimed at a local Taliban commander, Mullah Siddiq, who was among 35 insurgents it says were killed.

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laura.king@latimes.com

Special correspondent Faiez reported from Kabul and Times staff writer King from Istanbul, Turkey.

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