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Suspected Suicide Bomber Kills 13 in Southern Afghanistan

At least 13 people were killed and 11 injured in a blast outside the police headquarters in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar. The incident is the latest in a series of violent attacks in Afghanistan's volatile southern provinces.

Officials say a suicide bomber on a motorcycle caused the blast, which destroyed a guardhouse just outside the police headquarters in Kandahar.

"The attacker wanted to enter the police headquarters," said Interior Ministry spokesman Yousuf Stanezai. "He was stopped by the police for searching. During that time he blew himself up, killing 13, seven police and six civilians."

The dead and wounded were moved to a nearby hospital as Afghan and Canadian forces cordoned off the blast area.

Witnesses say the attack leveled the guardhouse but there were no reports of any damage inside the headquarters itself.

A man claiming to represent the Taleban says the hard-line Islamic group carried out the attack.

The Taleban, which controlled Afghanistan until it was ousted in 2001, remains a powerful underground presence in country, especially in the volatile southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar.

Security forces across the region were already on heightened alert after a week of violent clashes between Afghan troops and suspected Taleban insurgents. The fighting left at least 30 people dead, most of them militants.

Taleban forces have stepped up their attacks in recent months, including a surge of suicide bombings. There have been more than 20 such attacks in the past four months, fueling concerns that militants are importing tactics and strategies from Iraq.

The escalating violence comes as NATO peacekeepers are getting ready to sharply expand their presence in southern Afghanistan. Around 18,000 British, Dutch and Canadian troops will provide additional security in the region.