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Afghan bombing kills 1; gunmen target local chief

By Adam Schreck

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Feb. 7 2011 9:20 a.m. MST

Afghans stand around a coffin containing the body of Malam Awal Gul an Afghan prisoner, who died in at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay Cuba last week, during his burial ceremony in Jalalabad, east of Kabul, Afghanistan on Monday, Feb. 7, 2011.

Rahmat Gul, Associated Press

KABUL, Afghanistan — A suicide bomber killed one person and wounded five others in southern Afghanistan's largest city of Kandahar on Monday, hours after attackers gunned down a local government chief in the country's volatile eastern borderlands.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for both attacks.

A homemade bomb also claimed the life of a NATO service member in a separate attack in the country's south, the sixth coalition member killed this month. NATO didn't disclose the person's nationality or location of the blast.

The Kandahar suicide bomber detonated explosives inside the city's customs house compound during a visit by NATO forces, police chief Khan Mohammad Mujahid said. He said the person killed was an Afghan interpreter.

The government facility is used by businesspeople and truck drivers to clear customs paperwork on imported goods. Visitors typically undergo vehicle inspections and pat-downs to enter, raising questions about the adequacy of security procedures there and whether the bomber knew international troops would be nearby.

Kandahar is located in the Taliban's traditional southern stronghold. It has been the site of several recent attacks, including a car bombing Friday that apparently targeted the city's chief of police.

Earlier in the day, gunmen killed the acting chief of the eastern Khost province's Bak district on his way to work. The official, identified as Sayed Mohammad, was shot by four men wearing Afghan national army uniforms as he drove to the office at about 9 a.m., provincial officials said.

Like Kandahar, Khost has witnessed numerous insurgent strikes, including a high-profile suicide bombing at a remote CIA outpost in late 2009. It is located along the mountainous border region with Pakistan where the Haqqani network, a group with ties to the Taliban and al-Qaida, is known to operate.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the district chief was targeted because of his collaboration with foreign troops.

U.S. and NATO commanders insist they are making progress in the fight against the Taliban and its allies. NATO said it and Afghan security forces detained several suspected insurgents during a raid Sunday targeting a Haqqani network leader responsible for coordinating bombings in Khost province.

NATO also announced a child was accidentally killed during an air strike targeting insurgent operations in the southern Helmand province. U.S. Army Col. Patrick Hynes of the NATO Afghan mission's joint command called the accident "deeply regrettable."

The U.S. hopes to solidify gains against insurgents as it prepares to begin drawing down forces in July. NATO aims to hand over responsibility for Afghanistan's security to local forces and pull all its troops out by 2014.

A New York University report released Monday by researchers based in Kandahar argues that the Taliban's older leadership is finding it increasingly difficult to control insurgency efforts as their ranks thin and their authority wanes.

The report says al-Qaida and the Taliban remain separate groups with distinct objectives despite their shared opposition to U.S.-led forces in the region. But as the Taliban chain of command weakens, they say lower-level leaders are becoming more financially independent and open to manipulation by al-Qaida.

In Jalalabad, east of Kabul, hundreds of mourners — some chanting anti-American slogans — turned out for the funeral of Awal Gul, a 48-year-old Afghan prisoner at Guantanamo Bay who collapsed and died while exercising at the U.S. base's detention center last week. He is the seventh prisoner to die at the detention center since it was established in January 2002.

The U.S. military said he was an "an admitted Taliban recruiter" who met several times with Osama bin Laden. Matthew Dodge, one of the attorneys who had been fighting for Gul's release, has called the allegations "outlandish."

Associated Press writers Amir Shah in Kabul and Mirwais Khan in Kandahar contributed to this report.

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