Suicide blast kills child, four Afghan policemen

9 04 2009
Source: AFP

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AFP) — A suicide bomber killed a child and four anti-drugs policemen in southern Afghanistan on Thursday, police said, as the US military reported killing 10 militants in overnight raids.

The blast occurred in the town of Lashkar Gah, capital of the turbulent southern province of Helmand, the heart of Afghanistan’s opium production — a lucrative trade that helps bankroll a Taliban-led insurgency.

A man walked up to a four-vehicle police convoy and detonated explosives strapped to his body, deputy provincial police chief Kamaludin Khan told AFP.

Four counter-narcotics policemen and a nine-year-old child were killed, while seven policemen and two civilians were wounded, Khan said.

The policemen were heading out to eradicate opium fields south of the town, he said.

Khan blamed the attack on “enemies of Afghanistan”, a term often used to refer to Taliban militants who are waging a bloody insurgency that profits from the huge opium and heroin industry.

Afghanistan produces 90 percent of the world’s opium, most of it coming from Helmand, where some of it is also manufactured into heroin in drugs labs.

The 1996-2001 Taliban government was able to radically cut back Afghanistan’s opium production but the insurgents now earn millions of dollars a year from the trade, officials say.

They take a “tax” from opium farmers and also earn money from protecting trafficking routes and fields, using the cash to buy weapons for their insurgency, according to Afghan and Western officials.

Part of an international effort to stabilise Afghanistan and rid it of extremists linked to Al-Qaeda in neighbouring Pakistan is a costly effort to tackle the drugs trade, which also feeds government corruption.

The Taliban swept to power in 1996 and were removed five years later in a US-led invasion after they did not hand over their Al-Qaeda allies following the September 11, 2001 attacks.

The militants rose from Kandahar province, which is still one of their strongholds.

The US military said that Afghan and international troops raided a Taliban cell in the province’s Maiwand district overnight and killed six militants.

The cell was involved in attacks against Afghan soldiers and their international counterparts, it said.

A separate US military statement said four militants, one of them a woman carrying weapons, were killed in the eastern province of Khost in another overnight operation.

The raid targeted the Haqqani network and a separate outfit called the Islamic Jihad Union, it said.

The Haqqani group falls under well-known Soviet resistance commander Jalaluddin Haqqani, who is believed to be close to the fugitive Tailban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar and Al-Qaeda.

Haqqani’s sons are said to have taken over militant activities from their now elderly father. The Islamic Jihad Union is also linked to Al-Qaeda.

There was no independent confirmation that the dead were all militants.

Last year was the deadliest of the Taliban-led insurgency, associated with extremist violence also picking up across the border in Pakistan.

US President Barack Obama has launched a new sweeping strategy to combat the mounting threat from extremists and turn around the insurgency in Afghanistan, including a focus on eliminating Al-Qaeda bases in Pakistan.

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