GHAZNI, Afghanistan (Reuters) - A suicide bomber on a motorised rickshaw killed the deputy governor of Afghanistan’s Ghazni province and five others on Tuesday, the area’s police chief said, the latest assassination of a government official.
This year has been the bloodiest in Afghanistan since the Taliban’s removal in 2001, with military and civilian casualties at record levels. More foreign troops have died this year already than in the whole of 2009.
Militants have also stepped up targeted attacks on officials. An average of 21 people were reported to be assassinated each week, the United Nations said in a quarterly report on the country this month, up from seven a week earlier this year.
Deputy governor Mohammad Kazim Allahyar and several men travelling with him were killed instantly when the attacker detonated his explosives at the back of their car near the airport in Ghazni city, provincial police chief Delawar Zahid told Reuters.
The bodies were so badly burnt that there was some confusion about the identity of the other victims.
Zahid said Allahyar’s son, nephew and driver died, along with two civilians passing by on a bicycle. He had earlier said three bodyguards died along with Allahyar’s relatives. President Hamid Karzai’s palace said four bodyguards and Allahyar’s son died.
Another 17 people have been taken to the provincial hospital for treatment and are in good condition, Safiullah, a doctor who goes by one name, told Reuters.
The car Allahyar was travelling in, an ordinary white Toyota Corolla rather than the armoured vehicles used by many officials, was almost entirely destroyed by the blast.
The scene of the explosion was cordoned off, but a thick column of smoke was still rising from the remains of the vehicle. Allahyar had already escaped one assassination attempt earlier this year.
Ghazni, which lies around two hours drive to the southwest of Kabul, has seen a steady increase in violence. NATO and Afghan forces fight regularly with insurgents in the area, but there has not been a push to roll back their gains comparable to efforts in the southern Taliban heartlands of Kandahar and Helmand.
Rising violence and casualties are of deep concern in Washington, where U.S. President Barack Obama is due to conduct a strategy review of the increasingly unpopular war in December. Afghanistan is under renewed scrutiny after this month’s parliamentary election was hit by violence and widespread complaints of fraud, the second flawed poll in 13 months.
The problems surrounding the ballot underscored the challenges facing the United States and NATO nations as they decide how long they will keep troops in Afghanistan.
There are now almost 150,000 foreign forces supporting some 300,000 Afghan security forces battling the growing insurgency.
Additional reporting by Hamid Shalizi; Writing by Emma Graham-Harrison; Editing by Jonathon Burch