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Afghan bombing kills 33

The Taliban takes responsibility for the suicide attack at an army recruitment center in Kunduz.

March 15, 2011|Alex Rodriguez and Aimal Yaqubi

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN, AND KABUL, AFGHANISTAN — A suicide bomber killed at least 33 people at an army recruitment center in northern Afghanistan on Monday, underscoring the vulnerability of Afghan security forces as they struggle to assume more responsibility for safeguarding the country from Taliban insurgents.

The Taliban took responsibility for the attack, the insurgency's second strike on an army recruitment center in the city of Kunduz in 12 weeks.

A suicide bombing at a different recruitment center Dec. 19 killed nine Afghan soldiers and police officers and injured a dozen other people.

Monday's blast occurred as recruits stood in line outside the center, said Mahboobullah Sayedi, spokesman for the governor of Kunduz province.

The attacker walked up to the main gate and detonated his explosives. Most of those killed were Afghans volunteering to join the army, though four children and several Afghan soldiers were also among the dead.

The blast injured at least 42.

A statement issued by President Hamid Karzai's office called the attack "an unforgivable act of terror against those who wanted to join the army ranks to protect their nation and territorial integrity. The enemy does not want to see an Afghan force develop and grow capable of protecting its nation."

U.S. and NATO forces have been stepping up efforts to train Afghan security forces for transition in 2014, when international troops are expected to hand Afghanistan the lead role in securing the war-torn nation.

Washington plans to follow through with President Obama's pledge to begin reducing the U.S. troop presence beginning this July, though it is widely believed that the drawdown will begin with token withdrawals rather than a significant pullback.

Once regarded as relatively peaceful, Kunduz province has seen a sharp rise in Taliban attacks over the last few months.

Last week, a suicide bomber killed the police chief of the city of Kunduz, Abdul Rahman Said Khili, as he walked along a street. At least eight other people were wounded in that attack.

In February, a suicide bomber killed at least 30 people in an attack on a government office in the Imam Sahib district of Kunduz province.

Most of those killed were Afghans waiting to get government identification cards.

Last October, Kunduz Gov. Mohammed Omar was killed in a bomb blast at a crowded mosque in Takhar province, just east of Kunduz province. Nineteen others were killed in that attack.

alex.rodriguez@latimes.com

Yaqubi is a special correspondent.

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