Seven people were killed Sunday in a suicide car bomb attack on police headquarters in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, a bastion of Taliban militancy, the interior ministry said.
Three policemen and four civilians died in the blast in the car park, the ministry said in a statement, while nine other people were injured.
Kandahar is the largest city in southern Afghanistan and the birthplace of the Taliban, who have been waging a bloody insurgency since being ousted from power by the US-led invasion in late 2001 that followed the 9/11 attacks.
"At around noon today (0730 GMT), a suicide car bomber detonated his explosive-packed car in district one of Kandahar that killed seven, including three police and four civilians and wounded nine others", the ministry statement said.
Kandahar governor Tooryalai Weesa also said there were seven deaths, but said five of those were police and gave a wounded toll of 19, including 13 women and children.
Blood-splattered items from nearby market stalls lay scattered on the ground after the attack, which destroyed four police cars and damaged nearby buildings, according to an AFP correspondent.
Militants frequently target Afghan police and military, who are due to assume responsibility for the country's security from NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) troops by the end of 2014.
NATO defence ministers on Thursday voiced hope that Afghan forces would take the lead by the end of next year, with foreign troops moving to a backup role until their combat mission ends.
Seven Afghan civilians were killed on January 19 when a suicide attacker targeting ISAF vehicles blew up his car at Kandahar airport -- an attack claimed by the Taliban.
A UN report on Saturday said civilian deaths in Afghanistan reached a record high in 2011 -- the fifth straight year the death toll has gone up.
A total of 3,021 civilians died -- mostly at the hands of insurgents -- up eight percent from 2,790 in 2010, the UN mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said.
The record loss of life was blamed mainly on changes in the insurgents' tactics, which saw an increased use of homemade bombs and deadlier suicide attacks.
Taliban negotiators have begun holding preliminary talks with US officials in Qatar on plans for peace negotiations aimed at ending the decade-long Afghan war.
Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani is to discuss Afghan peace efforts with the Qatari leadership when he travels to the Gulf state for a visit on Monday.
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