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Suicide bomber kills 5 in Afghanistan

Associated Press / April 10, 2009
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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - A suicide bomber attacked a police drug eradication unit in southern Afghanistan yesterday, killing five people and wounding 17, an official said. The Taliban claimed responsibility.

The attacker struck the patrol in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province, a major drug-producing area, said Kamal Uddin, deputy provincial police chief. The police unit was traveling in a convoy of vehicles headed for nearby districts to eradicate poppies, Uddin said.

Five people - two police officers and three civilians - were killed in the blast, said Daud Ahmadi, spokesman for the provincial governor. The blast also wounded four policemen and 13 civilians, Ahmadi said.

Two police vehicles and three shops were damaged, Uddin said. He initially reported four dead policemen, but the casualty figures were later revised by Ahmadi.

A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for the blast in a phone call to an Associated Press reporter. In a later posting on the Internet, the Taliban said the attacker was on foot, according to SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors Islamic extremists websites.

The Afghan Interior Ministry issued a statement blaming "the narcotics mafia" for the attack.

Afghanistan is the world's largest producer of opium, the main ingredient in heroin. The UN estimated last year that up to $500 million from the illegal drug trade flows to Taliban fighters and criminal groups.