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Kandahar Attack Targets Government Officials

A vehicle bomb has detonated in Afghanistan's southern city Kandahar, killing at least six people and wounding 25 others. VOA's Barry Newhouse reports from Kabul the attack targeted government offices, but most of the victims were civilians.

The attack occurred around noon in an area of the city filled with government offices, including the provincial council compound.

There, President Karzai's brother, the provincial assembly chief, was hearing complaints from local residents.

Hajji Mohammed was with a group of residents seeking an audience with Ahmad Wali Karzai when the blast occurred. He spoke to reporters hours later from his hospital bed.

"We were near the building when there was an explosion. We did not know what happened until we looked down and saw blood spattered on our clothes, " he said.

The president's brother was later reported unhurt in the attack.

Elsewhere in Kandahar, two men on a motorcycle threw acid on a group of 15 girls outside their school. Doctors say several of the girls have been hospitalized.

Rising violence in Afghanistan has led to fears that insurgents are gaining ground. A string of recent attacks and kidnappings in and around Kabul have many residents concerned that Taliban forces are encroaching on the capital city.

During a news conference in Kabul, NATO officials tried to distinguish between violence caused by Taliban insurgents and the acts of common criminals.

Spokesman Richard Blanchette said the number of insurgent-related security events has decreased in Kabul during each of the past three years.

"But these statistics do not carry the perception that the people have in Kabul of the security situation," he said. "And this brings up the question of criminality, which is quite different from the insurgent activities. And this must not be mistaken - the insurgents are not growing stronger in Kabul."

General Blanchette said NATO officials are acutely aware of the difficulties imposed by the dangers outside Kabul and improving security on the country's highways is a priority.