At least 18 people were killed in a series of deadly bombing attacks, marring the start of newly re-elected Afghan President Hamid Karzai's second term in office and highlighting the challenges that lie ahead.
AFP - Bombers on Friday killed 18 people in Afghanistan, a deadly start to President Hamid Karzai's second term in office that underscored spiralling insecurity nine years into the US-led war.
The attacks brought to 30 the number of people killed since Karzai was sworn in for another five years on Thursday, pledging to try to bring peace to the nation and take over security from foreign forces in five years.
A suicide bomber on a motorcycle struck the capital of the southwestern province of Farah, killing 15 people, while a roadside bomb killed three civilians in the east.
The Taliban-led insurgency against the Western-backed government is at its deadliest in the eight years since US-led troops ousted their regime and is slowly encroaching into once peaceful parts of the north and west.
The suicide bomber attacked near the home of Farah's provincial governor, damaging nearby buildings in an area where heavy trucks were being loaded with goods bound for Herat, officials said.
"The bomber riding on a motorcycle detonated himself at a main square near my working office in my home," provincial governor Rohul Amin Amin told AFP.
"Fifteen people have been killed," the governor said, updating an earlier toll of 12. Apart from a police officer, the dead were civilians, Amin added.
About 34 other people, mostly civilians, were wounded, officials said. More than a dozen of the wounded were in "critical condition," meaning the death toll could rise further, the governor said.
Abdul Jajbar Shayeq, a doctor in the town's main hospital, confirmed the casualties.
In the eastern province of Khost, a roadside bomb, similar to those used by Taliban insurgents, ripped through a civilian car, killing three non-combatants, local police said.
Four other people, all members of one family, were wounded in the blast, Gul Dad, a senior provincial police official, told AFP.
Four attacks have hit Afghanistan since Karzai was inaugurated. Two US soldiers and 10 civilians were killed in two separate bombings on Thursday.
The violence underscores the challenge Karzai faces if he is to make good on his inauguration hope that Afghan troops will soon take the lead on security, allowing the more than 100,000 NATO and US troops to scale back.
"We are determined that within the next five years the Afghan forces are capable of taking the lead in ensuring security and stability," he told an audience that included US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, whose support has taken a battering over the war, has also proposed a timetable for a gradual handover from 2010, but US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said it was too soon to set a timeline.
"I think I would rather have those on the ground in Afghanistan make the judgment call about when a province or a district was ready to be turned over, rather than specific dates," Gates told reporters.
As Karzai turns his attention towards stitching together a cabinet, the international community and disillusioned Afghans wait to see if he can deliver on his pledges to end corruption and bring peace to his war-ravaged nation.
Karzai won plaudits for his inauguration speech on Thursday from Western officials including Clinton, who said it was an "important new starting point" as the US-led war stretches into its ninth year.
His Western backers, frustrated after pouring over 100,000 troops and billions of dollars of aid into Afghanistan with little return, have demanded strong action from Karzai, whose reputation has been tarnished by his fraud-ridden re-election, and rampant corruption and mismanagement.
"The future will tell us but I believe we are going in the right direction," Ettore Sequi, the European Union's special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, told AFP.
The nature of Karzai's election win -- with almost a million fake votes cast in his favour -- highlighted astounding levels of graft in Afghanistan, now billed by Transparency International the world's second most corrupt country.
Date created : 2009-11-20