KANDAHAR, Jan 16: Taliban suicide bombers killed at least 26 people in two attacks in southern Afghanistan on Monday, a day after a Canadian diplomat and two civilians were killed in another attack in the area.

The combined toll was the worst in a day from suicide bombings in Afghanistan since US-led forces overthrew the Taliban in late 2001 and came just hours after President Hamid Karzai expressed concern about an increase in such attacks.

An adviser to President Karzai said the aim of the insurgents appeared to be to frighten Nato members who plan to deploy in the volatile south and donors who are due to meet in London at the end of the month to draw up a new long-term assistance plan.

At least 20 people died in the town of Spin Boldak, bordering Pakistan, when a bomber on a motorcycle detonated a device after riding into a playground where hundreds of people had gathered for a festival, officials said.

At least 20 people were hurt in the attack, which the Afghan Press said happened during a wrestling contest.

“It was a suicide attack,” Spin Boldak police chief Abdul Wasi Alekozai said. “The person rode his motorbike into the crowd and blew himself up. The intention of this attack was to create insecurity and fear.”

Earlier, another suicide bomber hurled himself in front of an Afghan army vehicle in the heart of the provincial capital, Kandahar, 110 km to the north, killing three Afghan soldiers and two civilians.

Four Afghan soldiers and 10 civilians were also wounded.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for both bombings.

Taliban official Mullah Sabir Momin said the attack in Spin Boldak had been aimed at the commander of the Afghan border force, General Abdul Raziq, but he was not at the event.

He said seven Afghan soldiers were among the dead.

“We plan more attacks on Afghan army commanders because they support the US presence in Afghanistan,” he said.

TEENAGE BOMBER: Assadullah, a witness to the bombing in Kandahar city, said the attacker appeared to be a teenager.

“I saw a boy of about 15 with an explosives’ vest running towards the car and then heard the explosion,” he said. “I ran for cover and saw the casualties when I got up.”

Flesh and blood could be seen scattered around at the scene.

Speaking at his fortified palace in Kabul, Mr Karzai said increased use of suicide attacks showed Taliban desperation.

However, he added: “They cause insecurity, worry among people ... disrupt life. They are a matter of concern for us ... we will use all means to prevent them.”

Security analysts suspect the Taliban has stepped up suicide attacks after seeing Al Qaeda’s success in Iraq.

The attacks have come at a time when America’s Nato allies are due to take over more responsibility from US troops in Afghanistan and Washington is looking to trim its commitment.

The Nato plans have faced some opposition and the Dutch parliament is due to debate on Jan 25 whether to commit 1,400 more troops to the volatile south, a highly contentious issue in the Netherlands given the dangers.

Mr Karzai said he had intelligence reports months ago that suicide attackers were being trained in frontier areas and most attacks were carried out by “foreigners”.

Rangeen Dadfar Spanta, an adviser to Karzai, said the aim appeared to be to frighten Afghanistan’s foreign allies.—Reuters

Saleem Shahid adds from Quetta: Those who were killed or injured in the Spin Buldak blast included many Pakistanis who had gone there to watch wrestling, sources in Chaman told Dawn on telephone. They said that about 40 injured people were brought to the Civil Hospital in Chaman and private hospitals.

“Ten bodies were brought to Chaman,” hospital sources said. One of the deceased who was identified as Mohammad Qasim and two injured were brought to the Civil Hospital in Quetta on late Monday night.

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