Bomb kills 37 at Afghan army base

By Ernesto Londono
Monday, March 14, 2011; 10:20 PM

KABUL - A suicide bomber targeting an army recruiting center in northern Afghanistan killed at least 37 people Monday afternoon, Afghan authorities said.

It was the latest indication that the Taliban is increasingly relying on mass casualty attacks to destabilize the government.

At least four children who were playing outside the Afghan National Army base in Kunduz province were killed in the blast, authorities said. Nearly 40 people were wounded, most of them prospective recruits, provincial officials said.

"There is no safety in Kunduz," the provincial council chief, Mahbobullah Mahbob, said Monday night. "I am really afraid that one day I, too, will get killed."

The bombing, one of the deadliest here in recent months, came four days after the provincial police chief was killed in a suicide bombing.

The Taliban asserted responsibly for the Monday bombing in a text message sent to journalists. The group also took responsibility for killing the province's police chief, Abdur Rahman Sayed Khali.

Western diplomats and U.S. military officials say the recent attacks show that the insurgent group, having lost key strongholds in the past few months, is resorting to spectacular attacks to counter the notion that it is on the defensive.

Most of the recent attacks attributed to the Taliban have targeted Afghan security forces, often when they are around civilians.

The U.N. envoy in Afghanistan, Staffan de Mistura, said the Taliban appears less concerned than ever about killing civilians.

De Mistura said he reached that conclusion in recent weeks as the United Nations was finalizing its annual report on civilian casualties in Afghanistan. U.N. officials reached out to Taliban leaders this year to offer to let them review a draft of the report and rebut any of its findings, the envoy said in a recent interview.

The report, which was issued last week, showed that the Taliban and other insurgent groups were responsible for at least 75 percent of the 2,777 conflict-related civilian deaths last year.

De Mistura said U.N. officials assumed that the Taliban would respond and rebut the report's findings because the group's leaders had asked the organization last year for that opportunity.

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