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Taliban Step up Attacks in Afghanistan


Afghans stand at the site of a suicide attack in Emam Saheb district of Kunduz province February 21, 2011

Afghans stand at the site of a suicide attack in Emam Saheb district of Kunduz province February 21, 2011

There is no letup in violence in Afghanistan where a suicide bomber has killed at least 30 people. Militant attacks have killed around 80 people within the past week.

Afghan authorities in Kunduz Province say people were lined up at a government office (in Emam Saheb district) to collect their identity cards when a suicide bomber attacked. The explosion wounded more than 40 people and some of them were said to be in critical condition.

The northern Afghan province and its surrounding areas have seen frequent deadly Taliban attacks in recent months. A district chief was killed in an attack earlier this month, while late last year the governor of Kunduz was killed along with 19 others while he was visiting his hometown in neighboring Takhar province.

On Saturday, a group of several Taliban suicide bombers stormed a bank in the eastern city Jalalabad, killing up to 40 people. Most of the victims were security personnel collecting their salaries at the bank.

Meanwhile, NATO and Afghan officials say they have launched investigations into allegations international forces may have mistakenly killed civilians in two separate incidents in the country's east. The NATO-led force says it deeply regretted the accident that occurred late Sunday in Nangarhar Province.

The incident came a day after Afghan authorities in another eastern province, Kunar, blamed international forces for killing as many as 64 civilians. Presidential spokesman Waheed Omar told reporters in Kabul a government team is investigating the incident.

"We hope that in the next couple of days we will have a government report prepared. But what was said to the media is based on what came from the area. And our understanding is that the governor of Kunar spoke to the media about it and the police chief spoke about it,” Omar stated. “And so far the accounts that come from Afghans they are all on the same page."

Speaking at a separate news conference, NATO spokesman Brigadier General Josef Blotz said coalition forces have no evidence of civilian casualties in any of the recent operations in Kunar province. He says international forces have joined the Afghans to investigate the allegations.

"The evidence viewed to date has revealed no evidence of children present at all on the night of February 17th, and adults were assessed to be men due to the fact they were armed and moving in tactical formations," Blotz said.

While commenting on recent deadly attacks across the country, the NATO spokesman said that insurgents are hitting "soft targets" to hurt civilians. He claimed the trend indicates Taliban insurgents have changed their tactics because security operations have weekend them and they can no longer confront the Afghan and NATO forces.

Traditionally, militant attacks decline in Afghanistan in winter, but it has not been the case this year. NATO commanders expect a surge in militant violence as Taliban insurgents prepare for their spring offensive.

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