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Afghan Taliban Uses Child Bomber at Start of Spring Offensive

Relatives wrap the body of a civilian, who was killed during a clash of militants with policemen in Ghazni, southwest of Kabul, Afghanistan, May 1, 2011

Afghan officials say a 12-year-old suicide bomber killed four people and wounded 12 others Sunday in eastern Paktika province, on the first day of the Taliban's promised spring offensive.

NATO said the bomber detonated his suicide vest in a bazaar full of civilians, a day after the Taliban publicly promised to pay "strict attention" to the safety of civilians in its spring offensive. The attack killed the head of a district council in the Shakeen area and three other people.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned the suicide bombing. The NATO mission in Afghanistan called it a "cowardly attack that shows the impotence of the Taliban."

In other violence Sunday, insurgents ambushed a police vehicle in neighboring Ghazni province, triggering fighting in which two policemen and two civilians died. Also in Ghazni, a bomb planted on a bicycle near the provincial police headquarters wounded 13 people.

In eastern Logar province, insurgents killed at least two people, while in the southern city of Kandahar, a gunmen on a motorcycle killed an Afghan soldier.

In Kandahar's Arghandab district Sunday, Afghan policemen opened fire on each other in a dispute over supplies. One policeman was killed and four were wounded.

The Taliban had warned it would launch its spring offensive against coalition and Afghan forces on Sunday. It said its targets would include military bases and convoys as well as Afghan officials, including members of the peace council that is trying to negotiate a settlement to the war.

The Taliban also urged Afghan citizens to stay away from the centers and activities of coalition and Afghan forces.

The top U.N. official in Afghanistan, Staffan de Mistura, called on pro-government forces and Taliban militants not to launch attacks on civilian locations or in areas where civilians gather. He also urged insurgents not to use improvised explosive devices indiscriminately, and called on Afghan and coalition forces to better regulate air strikes and nighttime raids targeting militants.