16 killed in attacks in southern Afghanistan
Two attacks just hours apart in the southern Afghan province of Helmand killed 16 people and wounded more than 20 others on Wednesday, officials said.
A suicide bomber on a motorcycle killed 10 civilians and two policemen in the first attack, while an intelligence official was among the dead in a second blast caused by a mine and that was claimed by the Taliban.
"At least 12 people were dead and more than 20 others wounded in a suicide attack in Kajake district of Helmand province," said the Afghan force coordination centre's Mohd Ismail Hotak.
An earlier report said seven policemen were killed.
Two hours later, a local intelligence official, two bodyguards and a civilian were killed in a mine explosion, said Daud Ahmadi, a spokesman for the provincial governor.
"The NDS (National Directorate of Security) deputy director of Nad Ali district, his two bodyguards and a civilian were killed today when a remote-controlled mine planted by the enemy exploded in Nad Ali district," he said.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the second attack, while the first also bore the hallmarks of the Islamist movement.
The Taliban, toppled in late 2001 in a US-led invasion, are waging an insurgency against the government and US-led forces, who have some 130,000 troops in the impoverished and war-ravaged country.
The hardliners announced earlier this month that they planned to set up a political office in Qatar, widely seen as a move towards peace negotiations with Washington and its Western allies.
A key US demand for any progress in negotiations is that the Taliban accept the Afghan constitution, which mandates protection for the rights of women and minorities, which were stifled during Taliban rule from 1996 to 2001.
Another crucial element would be a renunciation of violence by the Taliban and a break with Al-Qaeda and other "terrorist" groups, the US says.
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