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Suicide bombers kill at least 5 at community meeting in Afghanistan

January 06, 2013|By Alexandra Zavis and Hashmat Baktash | Los Angeles Times

KABUL, Afghanistan -- A pair of suicide bombers targeted a community meeting Sunday in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar, killing at least five people and injuring 15, local authorities said.

The attack happened about 11 a.m. at a government compound in the district of Spin Boldak, during a meeting of local leaders to discuss issues raised by residents, said Ahmad Javid Faisal, a spokesman for the Kandahar governor. A district council member and four local residents were among those killed, he said.

The district, which borders Pakistan, is considered an important smuggling route for drugs, weapons and militants.

There were conflicting accounts of how the attack unfolded.

Sayed Hashim Agha, the Spin Boldak district governor, said the bombers drove up to the compound and fired on police officers guarding the entrance, killing one of them. They then exited the vehicle on foot and detonated suicide vests in the hall where the meeting was taking place, he said.

Faisal said the bombers did not have a vehicle and the hall was not guarded at the time of the attack.

The Taliban insurgency claimed responsibility for the attack. Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi said two of the movement’s fighters fought Afghan security forces for half an hour before detonating their suicides vests.

He claimed eight district council members were killed and the district governor was trapped beneath the rubble. But Agha said the district governor did not attend Sunday’s meeting. The militants routinely exaggerate the effects of their attacks.

Taliban bombers strike often in Kandahar province, the birthplace of their movement, which ruled Afghanistan from 1996 until it was driven from power by the 2001 U.S.-led invasion. Although the targets are usually Afghan or foreign troops and officials, the victims more often are civilians.

In 2012, more than 3,400 Afghan civilians were injured or killed in insurgent attacks, most of them suicide or roadside bombings, according to a statement from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.

“This is yet another brutal example of the insurgency’s total disregard for innocent civilians and the safety of the Afghan people,” said U.S. Marine Gen. John R. Allen, who commands the international force.


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Baktash is a special correspondent for The Times.

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