Suicide attack kills 18 Afghans, injures 31

April 29th, 2008 - 9:37 pm ICT by admin  

Kabul, April 29 (DPA) At least 18 Afghans - 11 police officers and 7 civilians - were killed during a gun-battle and suicide attack by Taliban insurgents in eastern Afghanistan on Tuesday, officials said. The attack was carried out in the morning against a poppy eradication police force in Khogyani district of eastern Nangarhar province, the interior ministry said in a statement.

At least 31 people including the district governor of Khogyani were wounded in the attack, the statement said, adding that the attack took place when district officials were talking to local elders before the forces started eradication of the poppy crop.

Major Martin O’Donnell, a NATO-led military spokesman told DPA earlier that the casualties occurred when Taliban insurgents opened fire at Afghan police.

O’Donnell said a suicide bomber also detonated himself in the “midst of the confusion,” causing several casualties.

He said NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) soldiers were passing through the area at the time of attack, but no soldiers were injured.

A police official in the province, who did not want to be named said Khogyani’s district police chief was one of the casualties.

“If the goal of the insurgents was to target ISAF troops operating in the area, they failed,” Brigadier General Carlos Branco, ISAF spokesperson was quoted by an ISAF statement as saying.

“If the insurgents’ goal was to injure and kill Afghan citizens, they succeeded. This only shows the insurgents’ utter disregard for the life of the Afghan people,” he said.

ISAF forces were assisting Afghan troops with the evacuation of casualties from the scene, the statement added.

Until 2005 Nangarhar was one of the three largest opium producing provinces before a massive eradication brought the poppy cultivation level to almost zero.

The farmers resumed growing poppy after no alternative livelihood was provided by Afghan and international communities.

Afghanistan supplies more than 90 percent of the world’s opiate.

Taliban militants are widely believed to have benefited from the drug business and some estimates by Afghan and NATO sources have indicated that around 40 per cent of the Taliban-led insurgency is funded by drug money.

Taliban militants carried out more than 140 suicide attacks in the country last year, marking it as a record year since the fall of the Taliban regime in late 2001.

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