Security officers investigate the scene of a bomb in Gazni, Afghanistan,… (Rahmatullah Nikzad / Associated…)
KABUL, Afghanistan — At least 11 police officers were killed and numerous civilians injured in two bombings Saturday in the north and east of Afghanistan. Among the dead were the police counter-terrorism chief and the head of the traffic police in the northern province of Kunduz.
The Afghan police and other security forces are frequent targets of insurgents seeking to undermine confidence in the government as the U.S. and other countries prepare to withdraw most of their forces next year.
Mohammad Khalil Andarabi, the Kunduz police chief, said a suicide bomber blew himself up in a square in the heart of the provincial capital as the two senior officers were chatting about 5.30 p.m.
The traffic officer was at a police post in the square when the counter-terrorism officer, accompanied by bodyguards, stopped there to do some shopping on his way home from work, Andarabi said.
“We are not sure whether the suicide bomber detonated his explosives when he saw the police gathering at the square or he had been following the counter-terrorism chief for a while,” Andarabi said. “We have started an investigation to find out more.”
Andarabi said the bomber was on foot. But the Interior Ministry, which oversees the police, said the assailant was riding a motorcycle. In all, 10 officers were killed and five injured along with at least 12 civilians, he said.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement emailed to journalists.
The province has become an important base of operations for the militants, providing a springboard to launch attacks across a wide swath of the north.
Earlier Saturday, a bomb exploded near a police checkpoint in the eastern city of Ghazni, killing at least one officer and injuring several civilians.
Fazel Sabahoon, a spokesman for the provincial governor, said a suicide bomber on a bicycle blew himself up as a police patrol was driving through the area.
However, Sayed Mohammad Hasan, the deputy provincial police chief, said the explosives were strapped to the bike and detonated remotely. A civilian was also killed in the attack, he said.
Estimates of the number of people injured ranged from eight to 13.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for that incident. The Taliban is also active in Ghazni.
22 killed as death sentences in Egypt soccer riot spark clashes
Haitians found at sea not screened for asylum, U.N. agency says
Russian lawmakers give initial OK to gay 'propaganda' bill