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Central & South Asia
Bomber kills four civilians in Afghanistan
Four dead and 14 wounded in attack in remote eastern town, while Afghan Taliban deny reports that Mullah Omar is dead.
Last Modified: 23 May 2011 11:50
A suicide blast in Laghman province two weeks ago, following a similar suicide bombing [Reuters]

A suicide bomber struck a crowded Afghan bazaar, killing four civilians and wounding another 14 in a remote town in the east of the country.

"Four civilians were martyred and another 14 were wounded," Faizanullah Pattan, the provincial governor's spokesperson told the AFP news agency on Monday, adding that he did not know what the attacker's target had been.

There were no government offices or military patrols in the area where the incident happened in the small town of Najeel Khail in Alishing district of Laghman province, about 100km east of the capital Kabul.

The explosives were strapped to the bomber's body, the spokesman said.

A wave of Taliban suicide bombings has accompanied the militants' announcement of the start of their annual spring offensive late last month.

On Sunday, six members of the Afghan security forces were killed when the Taliban stormed a traffic police office and two suicide bombers detonated their explosives in a nine-hour standoff.

On Saturday, six medical students were killed by a suicide bomber who struck as they ate lunch in a tent at Kabul's heavily-guarded military hospital.

Civilians are often victims of the fighting in Afghanistan, which has run for nearly 10 years as 130,000 foreign troops try to put down a Taliban insurgency sparked by the 2001 US-led invasion to oust their Islamist regime.

Last year was the deadliest for civilians since the conflict began, according to the United Nations, with 2,777 killed - a 15 per cent increase on 2009.

Elsewhere in Afghanistan on Monday, the interior ministry said seven fighters were killed after Afghan and foreign forces repelled an attempted ambush in the highly unstable eastern province of Kunar, which borders Pakistan.

Of the 130,000 international troops currently in Afghanistan, the bulk of them are from the United States.

Afghan security forces are due to take over responsibility for security in a handful of safer areas from July, allowing some foreign troop withdrawals.

All international combat troops are due to be pulled out by 2014 although there have been calls for this timetable to be speeded up since the killing of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden by US forces in Pakistan on May 2.

Omar 'not dead'

The Afghan Taliban rejected as "propaganda" on Monday unsourced media reports that their reclusive leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, had been killed in Pakistan, saying he was alive and in Afghanistan and vowing to continue their insurgency.

Security officials in Pakistan and diplomats, US military commanders and government officials in Afghanistan all cast doubt on reports that Omar, one of the most-wanted men in the world, had been killed while travelling between Quetta and North Waziristan in Pakistan.

"He is in Afghanistan safe and sound," Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesperson for the Taliban, told the Reuters news agency by telephone from an undisclosed location.

"We strongly reject these baseless allegations that Mullah Mohammad Omar has been killed."

A spokesperson for the Afghan intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security (NDS), said its sources knew that Mullah Omar had been living in the Pakistani town of Quetta in the Baluchistan region of Pakistan but had recently gone missing.

"We can confirm that he has been disappeared from his hideout in Quetta in Baluchistan for the last four or five days," Lutfullah Mashal, the NDS spokesperson, told a news conference.

"We can't confirm if he is dead or alive."

The heavily bearded, one-eyed Omar is rarely seen in public.

With a $10 million US bounty on his head, he fled with the rest of the Afghan Taliban leadership to Quetta after their government was toppled by US-led Afghan forces in late 2001.

Source:
Agencies
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