Bomb targets Afghan governor

Separately, US-led security forces shot dead four suspected Taliban militants and a teenage girl, while elsewhere a soldier from a NATO-led force was killed in a firefight with insurgents.

The violence came as President Hamid Karzai attended a high-level security conference in Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban regime, to urge foreign forces to do their best to avoid civilian casualties.

Six bodyguards, a district chief and a civilian were killed when the suicide bomber sneaked into the heavily guarded residence of the governor of troubled Helmand province, provincial police chief Mohammad Nabi Mullahkhil told AFP.

“Governor Mohammad Daud was about to leave and as his motorcade and bodyguards were prepared the attacker penetrated into the governor’s house and
tried to approach the governor,” Mullahkil said.

“The bodyguard suspected he might be an attacker and stopped him but then the man exploded himself,” he said, adding that eight other bodyguards were injured.

The interior ministry also said eight people were killed in the attack, which took place during working hours at the house in Lashkargah, the provincial capital, but said seven of the victims were policemen and one was a civilian.

NATO troops rushed to the governor’s house after the explosion but there were no casualties among foreign troops, said Jason Chalk, a spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

“All we can say is that the governor is safe,” Chalk said.

More than 30,000 NATO-led troops are currently hunting Taliban insurgents and their Islamic extremist allies, mainly in southern Afghanistan.

Another 10,000 US-led troops are operating in the conflict-ridden country.

ISAF said one NATO soldier was killed in a gunbattle with insurgents in Helmand on Tuesday. It did not give the soldier’s nationality or any more details but most of the troops in the province are British.

Separately on Tuesday, the US-led coalition and the Afghan army killed four suspected Taliban militants in eastern Afghanistan, the coalition said in a statement.

A 13-year-old girl was killed and an eight-year-old girl injured in the incident, when the soldiers raided a house near the village of Darnami in restive Khost province, where the alleged insurgents were hiding out, it said.

The wounded girl was taken to a coalition hospital, escorted by a family member, the coalition said. There were no casualties among the Afghan soldiers or coalition troops.

Karzai said he discussed the issue of civilian casualties when he held a meeting on security and reconstruction with NATO and US commanders, key foreign diplomats and government ministers in Kandahar, which borders Helmand.

“We discussed it. It was one of the very serious and main topics. We take it very seriously. NATO takes it very seriously,” the president told reporters after flying into the restive city by US helicopter.

It was the first meeting of the so-called Policy Action Group that the beleaguered Afghan leader has attended and the first outside Kabul.

Security was tight for the meeting, an AFP correspondent said.

Karzai said NATO commanders were holding a meeting later Tuesday to discuss ways to avoid civilian losses during their operations.

At least 1,000 civilians have died in Afghanistan’s worst year of violence since the Taliban regime fell in late 2001 — most through insurgent action but some in NATO and coalition operations, according to an official report.

The 2006 death toll — taking into account civilian, militant, police, and Afghan and foreign troop casualties — is more than 3,700, four times the number in 2005.

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