Violence spikes across southern Afghanistan

By Deb Riechmann

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, June 19 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

Separately, the coalition said a NATO service member was killed Tuesday in an insurgent attack in southern Afghanistan. No other information was released so it was unclear whether the service member died in one of the attacks in Kandahar province or elsewhere in the south. So far this year, 200 NATO service members have been killed in Afghanistan.

In other violence Tuesday, gunmen assassinated two local government employees in the Chaparhar district of Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan, said the governor's spokesman, Ahmad Zia Abdulzai. The Taliban routinely target Afghan officials in an attempt to weaken the resolve of a government they say is collaborating with foreign occupiers.

Civilians also continued to be targeted.

A car hit a roadside bomb Monday in the Musa Qala district of southern Helmand province, killing eight civilians, including women and children, the governor's office said in a statement issued on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Afghan authorities announced that two men have been charged in connection with a Dec. 6 suicide bombing that killed 56 worshippers and wounded more than 160 others last year outside a Shiite shrine in Kabul. It was Afghanistan's first major sectarian assault since the fall of the Taliban regime more than a decade ago.

Officials with the Afghan intelligence service and Attorney General Mohammed Ishaq Aloko told reporters the two men confessed to transporting the suicide attacker from Peshawar, a city in northwest Pakistan, to the shrine in Kabul.

Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a Pakistan-based group that has carried out other attacks against Shiite Muslims, claimed responsibility for the bombing.

The attorney general said the bombing was an attempt to create division between Afghan Sunni and Shiite Muslims. He alleged that the Pakistani intelligence service was involved in the attack during the period of Ashoura, which marks the seventh century death of Imam Hussein, a grandson of the Prophet Muhammad.

Pakistan has repeatedly denied Afghan officials' allegations that it facilitates attacks in Afghanistan.

One of the men, Rahim Gul from Bati Kot district of Nangarhar province, told officials on a taped confession that he transported the suicide bomber because he was poor and badly needed the 10,000 Pakistani rupees (about $106) the organizers of the plot had agreed to pay him. The second man charged, Habibullah, who uses only one name, is from Nangarhar's Surkh Rod district.

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

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