Straw (L) urged leaders to improve
security in the country

Local citizens told Straw that their main worry was deteriorating security in the country and called for the 5,000-strong International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to be expanded.

Currently, the ISAF only operates in Kabul. Britain and the United States have refused to deploy troops to provinces.

Straw arrived in Kabul on Monday where he urged leaders of the US-backed government to improve security in their war-ravaged country.

The transitional government of President Hamid Karzai has struggled to impose authority outside of Kabul, where regional strongmen lord over large chunks of the country with the help of personal militias.

Before leaving Kandahar on Tuesday, Straw told officials he was worried about security in the country and urged officials to respect the authority of the central government.

Mosque blast

Kabul is struggling to build a
national army

A bomb exploded in a Kandahar mosque during evening prayers on Monday, injuring ten people, three of them seriously, said the mosque’s Imam and officials.

The imam, who supports the government, sustained injuries to his hand.

Khalid Pashtun, the governor’s spokesman, accused remnants of the Taliban of planting the bomb.

Pashtun said the mosque’s imam had recently rejected calls for jihad against Kabul.

“(The imam) was the target because he also heads the Council of Kandahar’s Ulema,” said Pashtun, in reference to the city’s Council of Clerics. “They had said that jihad is not applicable against the government.”

US-led forces toppled the ruling Taliban in late 2001 following the 11 September attacks in the United States.

The police chief of Zabul province, to the northeast of Kandahar, said provincial forces had been battling Taliban fighters in the Atghar mountains near the Pakistan border for three days.

Local police say the Taliban does not pose a major threat despite ambushes over the weekend that killed two provincial officials.