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Afghan Provincial Official Assassinated


There is continuing violence in southern Afghanistan, where a resurgent Taliban is continuing to carry out strikes against civilians. VOA correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kabul.

A Kandahar provincial official and his bodyguard on their way to work were shot dead by two gunmen on a motorbike. Dost Mohammad Arghestani headed the labor and social affairs department.

The killing is similar to the September 28 assassination of Kandahar's most senior policewoman. The Taliban claimed responsibility for shooting her.

Along with Taliban rebels, organized criminal gangs, including the drug mafia, are also blamed for killings there.

The assassinations are a challenge to President Hamid Karzai, up for re-election next year, to convince Afghans that they are better off than they were before the Taliban were driven from power.

The major complaint of the Afghan public is despite democracy, a massive international military presence, and billions of dollars of foreign aid, security is deteriorating and official corruption is rampant.

Responding to the assassination in Kandahar, presidential spokesman Humayun Hamidzada says the Afghan government is doing all it can to protect its public servants.

"Unfortunately we have enemies who are sworn or determined to destroy the way of life," he said. "They are determined to destroy what we have achieved in the past six years. And by attacking civilians cowardly they are showing one more time that they are purely terrorists and that they have no mission."

Police in the southern province of Uruzgan say nine people, including two children, riding in a small bus died when their vehicle hit an explosive device. Police blame the Taliban and say the bomb was likely planted to attack NATO troops who frequently use the road.

NATO said in a statement that three of its soldiers were killed Tuesday in eastern Afghanistan when a roadside bomb went off near their vehicle. Kandahar province has been wracked by increasing violence.

Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak says the rise in attacks by insurgents has made 2008 the bloodiest year since the ouster of the Taliban seven years ago.

General Wardak partly blames foreign insurgents driven out of Iraq and other countries by coalition forces. But he is expressing confidence that the enemy - whom he acknowledges are becoming better trained and equipped - cannot sustain their operations against a growing Afghan National Army and the massive foreign military presence.