KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AFP) - A suicide bomber killed 17 people and wounded another 21 in assassinating a police commander at a public bath in a southern Afghan town on the border with Pakistan, the local government said.
A nine-year Taliban insurgency is concentrated in southern Afghanistan, but suicide attacks targeting civilians in public places are relatively rare.
"A suicide bomber blew up explosives strapped to his chest at a public bath in Spin Boldak," border police official General Abdul Razaq told AFP.
He put the death toll at 13, but the provincial government spokesman later confirmed that at least 17 people had died in the attack.
"Twenty-one people were also wounded," said the spokesman, Zalmay Ayoubi, from the provincial capital, Kandahar.
The Kandahar administration released a statement saying that the bomber had been targeting a "police commander" named "Ramazan", who died in the attack, but did not immediately release any other details.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast, but such attacks are trademarks of the Taliban, who are fighting to bring down the Western-backed Afghan government and expel 140,000 US-led foreign troops.
U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates this week ordered an extra 1,400 Marines to southern Afghanistan in what the Pentagon said would put pressure on the Taliban in order to pre-empt a traditional insurgent offensive in the spring.
Defence officials expressed hope that the extra troops would bolster areas recently cleared between Kandahar city and Helmand province.
There are about 97,000 American troops in Afghanistan and 45,000 from other countries. Officials said the new Marines would not push the total number of U.S. forces above the limit of 100,000 authorised by President Barack Obama.
A year after ordering 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan has part of a last-ditch "surge" strategy designed to defeat Al-Qaeda and reverse the Taliban, Obama conceded last month that gains were fragile and reversible.
The White House said the strategy was "on track" but 711 foreign troops died in the Afghan during 2010, an average of two a day and exceeding by far the previous
most deadly annual toll of 521 during 2009.
U.S. commanders are under pressure to show clear progress in Afghanistan in
2011 so that at least a limited draw down of American troops can begin from July, or else face fresh public doubts about the course of the war.
U.S. officials see the American campaign in the south as make-or-break for the war effort, pinning their hopes on undermining the Taliban in its heartland and limiting the number of attacks such as the bombing on Friday.
The United Nations said 2,412 Afghan civilians died in the first 10 months of 2010, an increase of 20 percent on the corresponding period in 2009.
아프간 공중목욕탕서 자폭테러..17명 사망
아프가니스탄 남부의 한 공중목욕탕에서 7일 경찰을 노린 것으로 추정되는 자살폭탄테러가 발생, 17명이 숨지고 23명이 다쳤다.
아프간 칸다하르주(州) 정부 대변인은 이날 정오께 파키스탄 국경 인근 스핀 볼 닥 지역의 한 공중목욕탕에서 자폭테러가 발생했다고 밝혔다.
이 사건으로 인한 사망자들 가운데는 국경 경찰대 사령관과 경호원 2명, 시민 등이 포함돼 있다.
그러나 국경 경찰대 측은 숨진 사람이 13명이라고 밝혀 사망자수 집계 결과는 다소 엇갈리고 있다.
칸다하르 주정부측은 가슴에 폭탄을 두른 괴한이 목욕 중이던 국경 경찰대 사령 관을 노리고 목욕탕에 침입한 뒤 폭탄을 터뜨린 것으로 추정된다고 말했다.
아프간에서는 최근 나토(NATO.북대서양조약기구)군이 탈레반에 대한 공세를 강 화하면서 남부지역을 중심으로 민간인 피해가 잇따라 발생하는 등 치안상황이 악화 일로를 걷고 있다. (연합뉴스)