REPORTING FROM KABUL -- A powerful car bomb detonated outside a police station in the southern city of Kandahar killed seven people on Sunday, including five police officers and a child, Afghanistan provincial officials said.
The explosion came a day after the release of a United Nations report saying that civilian casualties had reached a wartime high and pointing out the extent to which ordinary Afghans’ daily lives are increasingly punctuated by violence. Insurgents are blamed for the bulk of the deaths.
At least 19 people were injured in the Kandahar blast, including three children, two women and six police officers, said provincial spokesman Zalmay Ayoubi. Windows were shattered in nearby buildings, and a charred crater marked the site of the explosion.
Kandahar, the hub of Afghanistan’s south, remains volatile despite a massive U.S.-led military push during the last two years. American troop strength peaked last year at just over 100,000 and is due to fall this year to about 68,000 as the NATO force prepares to wind down its combat role next year.
The Kandahar attack drew condemnations from President Hamid Karzai, the U.S. Embassy and NATO’s International Security Assistance Force. Karzai called it “despicable.”
In northern Afghanistan, officials in Sar-e-Pul province reported that an American soldier had shot and killed an Afghan guard at a military base, and called the fatal incident the result of a misunderstanding. The American apparently believed the guard was about to attack him, according to Said Anwar Rahmati, the provincial governor.
The NATO force said only that the incident, which took place Friday night, was under investigation. But it underscored the climate of deep mistrust that exists between Western and Afghan troops in the wake of dozens of so-called “fratricidal” attacks during the last five years. Four French troops were killed and more than a dozen others wounded last month by an Afghan soldier, and France announced days later that it was cutting short the deployment of its forces in Afghanistan.
The incident also pointed up the daunting challenges as Western troops begin to turn their focus away from combat and toward the training of Afghan forces, who in the coming year are to assume the lead in securing the country and protecting the population from the insurgents.
-- Laura King
Photo: Afghan security officers are shown at the scene of a deadly bombing attack in Kandahar on Sunday. Credit: Allauddin Khan / Associated Press