Afghan suicide blast kills 9
A suicide attacker walked into a district government office in southern Afghanistan and blew himself up on Monday, killing nine people and wounding eight, police said.
The Taliban-style attack in Kandahar province came as authorities announced that three policemen and five militants were killed in bomb blasts elsewhere in the war-ravaged country, which is battling an extremist insurgency.
The suicide bomber attacked a citizen registration office in the government headquarters of Dand district, about 10km south of the city of Kandahar, officials said.
"In this incident, five policemen and four civilians were martyred," the interior ministry said in a statement, updating earlier tolls issued by other officials. "Two policemen and six civilians were wounded."
It blamed the attack on the "enemies of Afghanistan", a term often used by Afghan officials to refer to Taliban and other insurgents behind a wave of violence that is also mounting in neighbouring Pakistan.
"The suicide attacker was on foot and he entered the citizen registration department and detonated," said the police commander for southern Afghanistan, General Ghulam Ali Wahdat.
The office is located inside a district government compound that includes administration offices, the police headquarters and a court.
The blast blew out the windows of the main building, an AFP reporter witnessed.
Afghan police and Canadian troops in a Nato-led International Security Assistance Force helping the government had surrounded the compound and would not allow journalists to enter, he said.
The Taliban swept to power from Kandahar province in 1996 and were removed in late 2001 in a US-led invasion.
They are waging an insurgency said to be directed largely from sanctuaries across the border in Pakistan that makes heavy use of suicide and other bomb blasts.
A roadside bomb exploded Monday in the eastern province of Paktia, which borders Pakistan, and blew up a police vehicle, killing three policemen, the interior ministry said in a statement.
The ministry said separately that five "enemies of peace and stability" were killed Monday when bombs they were planting into roads in Khost province blew up prematurely. The province is also on the border with Pakistan.
Afghanistan's insurgency has been joined by other radical outfits, with criminals and "guns for hire" also behind the near daily bloodshed, according to officials.
There were a record number of attacks last year, with nearly 2,200 civilians killed in attacks and military action, according to the United Nations.
Washington is the main supplier of international troops and aid to Kabul to help it overcome the insurgent threat and stabilise the turbulent nation.
US President Barack Obama on Friday announced a revamped US strategy to deal with the climbing violence.
It includes a greater focus on militant sanctuaries across the border in Pakistan, an addition of 4,000 US military trainers to help the Afghan security forces and ramping up civilian reconstruction efforts.