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Afghan governor survives assassination attempt

A bomb targets the convoy of Kandahar's governor. The province is considered a key battleground as the Obama administration prepares to announce the deployment of more troops.

November 27, 2009|By Laura King | Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

KABUL, Afghanistan — The governor of the violent southern province of Kandahar escaped an assassination attempt today, even as President Hamid Karzai renewed his calls to insurgents to lay down their weapons.

A remote-controlled roadside bomb exploded beneath a convoy carrying the governor, Turyalai Wesa, as he was on his way to prayers on the first day of Eid al-Adha, the holiest Muslim holiday of the year.

Wesa was unharmed, but a policeman helping guard him was injured, the governor's office said.

Kandahar, Afghanistan's second-largest city and the hub of the country's south, is considered a key battleground as the Obama administration prepares to announce the deployment of tens of thousands more American troops.

Many of them will be sent to Kandahar province, the birthplace of the Taliban movement and the scene of heavy fighting in recent months. Last month was the most lethal of the eight-year-old war for American troops, with nearly 60 U.S. service members killed.

In a message to mark the start of the Eid, Karzai — who was sworn in last week for a second five-year term — appealed again to insurgents to give up the fight and join pro-government forces.

"To all our brothers who stand armed against the country, I hope that for the sake of peace, stability and development, they return to the national fold and to their families," the Afghan leader said. He mentioned by name major militant factions including the Taliban and Hezb-e-Islami, a large militia led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a Soviet-era commander.

Karzai's call for reconciliation came two days after Mullah Mohammed Omar, the Taliban supreme leader, declared in his own Eid message that the insurgents would not bow to Western or government forces. Omar urged his compatriots and the rest of the world to sever ties with Karzai's "puppet" government.

Western officials in recent weeks have expressed greater willingness than previously to "reintegrate" fighters who lay down their weapons, as a possible prelude to higher-level negotiations with the Taliban and other insurgent groups.

That openness to talks with certain elements of the Taliban is expected to figure in President Obama's war strategy, which is to be unveiled in the coming week. The U.S. administration believes that certain Taliban figures are ideologically unwilling to give up the struggle, but that some lower-level commanders and foot soldiers would prefer to abandon the fight, perhaps in exchange for job opportunities and amnesty for previous attacks on Western forces.

laura.king@latimes.com

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