Afghan Official Threatens to Quit After Attack

Associated Press
Monday, September 28, 2009

KABUL, Sept. 27 -- A powerful member of President Hamid Karzai's cabinet threatened to quit after a suicide car-bomb attack targeted him Sunday, killing five people, in the Taliban's latest attempt to destabilize Afghanistan's struggling government. Two Americans were among six NATO troop deaths elsewhere.

Shortly after the bombing, in the western city of Herat, Energy Minister Ismail Khan railed against the dramatic rise in violence in Afghanistan, saying that thousands of new refugees are seeking shelter in Herat because of militant attacks in outlying districts.

Two days ago, Khan said, a young man was hanged by militants only a couple of miles from a NATO base and Afghan government center. Kidnappings of wealthy family members are on the rise, including abductions of girls, he said.

Khan said government security agents had warned him that insurgents planned to target him. Two earlier assassination attempts had been foiled, he said.

"Very clearly I want to say that if the government does not form a clear strategy to bring peace and security and the situation continues like this, I will not participate in the cabinet anymore," Khan said.

The convoy carrying Khan, a power broker in Herat and a former governor of that western province, was headed to the airport when a suicide car bomb exploded outside a high school, said Raouf Ahmadi, a police spokesman. Khan said five civilians died and 17 people were wounded, including four of Khan's bodyguards.

A Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, claimed responsibility and said the target was Khan.

Two U.S. service members died Saturday in the country's south -- one from a roadside bomb explosion and the other from an insurgent attack, the NATO-led force said Sunday. A British soldier died Sunday from a bomb explosion while patrolling in southern Afghanistan, Britain's Defense Ministry said.

Elsewhere, three French soldiers died in a violent storm in northeastern Afghanistan late Saturday.

An airstrike Saturday by international forces in Wardak province, bordering Kabul, killed three Afghan civilians, said Shahidullah Shahid, spokesman for the provincial governor. Civilian deaths in airstrikes have infuriated Afghans, and the top NATO commander, U.S. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, has made protecting innocent Afghans a top priority.

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