By NOOR KHAN, Associated Press WriterSat Jul 5, 3:28 AM ET
Gunmen in a dangerous part of southern Afghanistan assassinated an Afghan lawmaker, while a roadside bomb militants were planting detonated prematurely, killing 10 Taliban, officials said Saturday.
The gunmen killed parliament member and former military commander Habibullah Jan after he visited an Afghan army compound in the Zhari district of Kandahar late Friday, said Kandahar provincial council member Bismillih Afghanmul.
Zhari is a volatile part of Kandahar contested heavily by militants and Canadian forces over the last two years.
Taliban fighters have frequently targeted Afghan officials, but Jan’s death was the first of a parliamentarian in months.
In neighboring Helmand province, militants planting a roadside bomb detonated the device prematurely, killing 10 Taliban, said police chief Mohammad Hussein Andiwal.
The fact one bomb killed so many men appears to reflect the increased size of explosives Taliban fighters have been using in recent months. The bigger bombs — long used in Iraq but a fairly new phenomenon in Afghanistan — are shredding through heavily armored U.S. and NATO vehicles and killing multiple soldiers in one attack.
The deaths came the same day that the U.S. military said airstrikes by its attack helicopters hit two vehicles carrying insurgents in eastern Afghanistan.
Nuristan’s Gov. Tamim Nuristani said by telephone that 22 civilians were killed in the strikes in the Waygal district on Friday, including a woman and a child.
But a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition said Friday the airstrikes in Nuristan province hit militants who earlier attacked a U.S. military base with mortars.
The helicopters identified the militants’ firing positions, tracked them down and destroyed the vehicles they were traveling in, said 1st Lt. Nathan Perry.
“These were combatants. These were people who were firing on us,” Perry said. “We have no reports of noncombatant injuries.”
He gave no account of casualties in the vehicles.
The bodies were brought to a provincial hospital, Nuristani said. Seven other people were wounded.
It was impossible to independently verify any of the claims because of the remoteness of the area.
More than 8,000 people were killed in insurgency-related attacks in Afghanistan last year — the most since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion. Violence has claimed more than 2,100 lives — mostly militants — so far this year.
Associated Press reporters Amir Shah in Kabul and Noor Khan in Kandahar contributed to this report.