Roadside bomb explosions in southern Afghanistan have killed at least five civilians and five policemen. The attacks came as NATO's new
Secretary General visited Kabul to discuss with Afghan officials and
candidates security steps the international military alliance has put
in place ahead of the August 20 presidential election.
Afghan officials in southern Helmand province say a group of civilians was traveling
to a wedding party when their trailer, which was being pulled
by a tractor, hit a roadside bomb.
Officials have blamed Taliban insurgents who have stepped up attacks
across Afghanistan as part of efforts to discourage voters from taking
part in the upcoming presidential election.
Officials say five policemen were also killed in a separate roadside bomb blast in
Helmand. The region is a known Taliban stronghold
where thousands of U.S Marines and British soldiers are engaged in
major anti-insurgency operations to improve security before Afghans go
to the polls.
The latest militant attacks come as NATO's new
Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen discussed the security
situation and the alliance's operations with Afghan officials and
presidential candidates, including President Hamid Karzai, who is
Addressing a press conference late Wednesday night in Kabul together with the NATO's visiting
secretary-general, Mr. Karzai repeated his message for Taliban
Attacking election sites
or intimidating people is not only not serving Afghanistan it is
actually working against the Afghan people in their very immediate
interests for a better life and for [a] stable Afghanistan," Mr. Karzai said. "So my
message to the Taliban is to come and participate in the elections and
my message to the Afghan people is to be as courageous and as full [of]
guts and courage as they always were in Afghan history [and] as
they have proven before to come and participate and defy all odds," he continued.
Afghan president also has recently offered peace talks to Taliban
leaders provided they renounce violence and are not linked to al-Qaida terrorists.
Early this week, the top United Nations
representative in Afghanistan also called for talks with Taliban
leaders, saying discussions with low-level militant commanders may not
help end the violence. U.S and British officials have also called for
inclusion of Taliban militants in the Afghan political system as long
as they agree to end their extremist activities.
speaking in Kabul, NATO's Secretary-General Rasmussen said that he is
also ready to take what he described as pragmatic steps to improve Afghan security.
"However, I would
like to make a couple of things clear. Firstly, it has to be a process
led by the Afghan government. We need a clear Afghan ownership in such
a process. Secondly, I think it is a pre-requisite that the Afghan
government can conduct the talks and negotiate from a position of
strength," Rasmussen said.
"Therefore there is no alternative whatsoever to continued and
strengthened military efforts. And finally, I would like to make clear
that for me it is also a pre-requisite that the groups we engage with
put down their weapons and abide by the laws in this country," he continued.
Taliban-led violence has dramatically escalated this year. The month of
July has been particularly deadly for U.S and NATO forces that lost
more than 70 soldiers, more than half of them Americans. The United
Nations says that civilian deaths have risen more than 24 percent in
the first half of 2009 caused by both militant attacks and the
The deteriorating security
situation in southern and eastern parts of the country has been a cause
of concern for both Afghan election officials and international
observers. There are fears the rising Taliban attacks may discourage
voters from showing up at polling stations in these areas, raising
questions about the legitimacy of Afghanistan's crucial presidential
election, the second since the removal of the Taliban from power in