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Afghanistan car bombing kills as many as 13

A child and up to 12 police officers are killed in the Taliban attack in Lashkar Gah, Helmand province. Afghan forces recently took over security responsibilities from Western troops in the town.

August 01, 2011|By Laura King, Los Angeles Times
  • Afghan police inspect the site of a suicide car bombing in front of police headquarters that left as many as 13 dead in the southern city of Lashkar Gah in Helmand province.
Afghan police inspect the site of a suicide car bombing in front of police… (Abdul Malik, AFP/Getty…)

Reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan — A powerful Taliban car bomb killed as many as 12 Afghan policemen and a child on Sunday in a southern town where Afghan forces took over security responsibilities from Western troops less than two weeks ago.

The suicide attack on an Afghan police headquarters in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province, could bode ill for hopes that the Afghan police and army will be able to protect themselves and the civilian population against insurgents without the backing of Western firepower.

Some doubt that Afghan forces are up to the job.

Lashkar Gah was one of seven cities or provinces handed over to the Afghan police and army earlier in July, inaugurating a nationwide transition of security responsibilities away from NATO combat troops that is to be completed in 2014. The Taliban and other insurgent groups have specifically targeted several of the areas affected so far.

Sunday's explosion, which was strong enough to collapse one of the walls surrounding the police headquarters, occurred about 8 a.m., as officers were arriving for work, said provincial spokesman Daoud Ahmadi. He said the 10 policemen who were killed and the seven officers injured were either inside the compound or at its gates.

The Afghan Interior Ministry put the number of slain police at 12, with a dozen others wounded. It is not unusual for casualty figures provided by Afghan authorities to vary in the hours after an attack.

As often happens in Taliban strikes against government and security installations, civilian passersby were caught up in the violence. In addition to a young boy who was killed, at least two other civilians were hurt, Ahmadi said.

The Taliban movement, in claiming responsibility, asserted that the casualties were about three times as high as the government acknowledged. But the group often makes exaggerated claims about the effectiveness of its attacks.

The bombing came on the eve of the start of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Michael G. Mullen, who is visiting Afghanistan, was quoted by the Associated Press as saying Sunday that military officials will be watching closely for any increase in insurgent activity during the holy month as they finalize plans for an American troop pullback.

Mullen has been consulting with commanders about President Obama's orders to withdraw 10,000 U.S. troops from the country by the end of the year. Some field officers have voiced concerns that the drawdown will endanger the remaining American force, which will number about 68,000 by year's end, and jeopardize military gains made against the Taliban in the last year, particularly in Afghanistan's south.

laura.king@latimes.com

Special correspondent Aimal Yaqubi contributed to this report.

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