Bomb blast hits Afghanistan

A bomb targeting police in the western Afghan city of Herat explodes during rush hour, killing 12 people and wounding 20.

Afghan policemen stand guard at the site of a bomb blast in Herat on August 3, 2009.
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AFGHANISTAN // A bomb targeting Afghan police exploded in the heart of Afghanistan's western city of Herat today, killing 12 people and wounding another 20 during rush hour, police say. The attack heightens concerns that the country's Taliban-led insurgency is spiking less than three weeks before landmark presidential and provincial council elections on August 20. The provincial police chief Esmatullah Alizai said the blast was caused by a bomb planted in a rubbish bin by the roadside.

"It exploded as the convoy of district police passed by," he said. "Twelve people have been killed in this explosion and 20 other people have been wounded. Among those killed are two police." Another police officer said the attack was caused by a suicide bomber. The blast hit the centre of Herat during the busy morning rush hour. An AFP reporter said several police vehicles and private taxis were damaged in the blast. Motorcycles, bicycles, children's shoes and a woman's veil were also discarded on the ground. Following the blast there was some police gunfire, he added.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the explosion. The Taliban, the main extremist group in Afghanistan, has carried out multiple bombings as part of an insurgency aimed at winning back power after their 2001 overthrow by the US-led invasion that is now at its deadliest. The insurgent group has called on Afghans to boycott the elections and ordered its fighters to block all roads a day before polling stations open.

Authorities said yesterday that other insurgent attacks killed three US and two Canadian soldiers, as well as seven Afghan policemen and soldiers. There are more than 100,000 foreign troops based here helping Karzai's government battle the insurgency. *AFP