19 are slain in Afghanistan bombings
4 soldiers from Canada among dead
French soldiers arrived at the scene of a suicide car bombing in Kabul, Afghanistan, in which four police officers were killed. (Rodrigo Abd/ Associated Press)
KAFIR BAND, Afghanistan -- Three suicide bombers killed at least 19 people across Afghanistan yesterday, including four Canadian soldiers in an attack that tested NATO's assertion of success in driving insurgents from this volatile southern region.
The deadliest attack was in the usually calm western city of Herat, where a militant strapped with explosives and riding a motorbike killed 11 people and wounded 18, including the deputy police chief, officials said.
The third attack, a car bombing in the capital, Kabul, killed at least four policemen and wounded one officer and 10 civilians.
Afghanistan has had the heaviest insurgent attacks since the Taliban was toppled in late 2001, and the bombings came a day after the North Atlantic Treaty Organization ended a two-week offensive, which the commander called a ``significant success," against Taliban fighters in this region .
``It does appear that they are resorting to these despicable tactics after the pressure we have them under in their strongholds," a NATO spokesman, Major Luke Knittig, said in Kabul.
NATO's Operation Medusa centered on southern Kandahar province's Panjwayi district, where the first of yesterday's suicide bombings killed four Canadian infantrymen delivering aid and wounded an unspecified number of other troops, the Canadian military said.
The bombing was claimed by a purported Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousaf Ahmadi, in a telephone call to an Associated Press reporter.
NATO said 25 civilians also were wounded in the blast in Kafir Band .
``Fifty to 60 soldiers were patrolling on the main street when a man on a bicycle stopped and blew himself up near the forces," said Fazel Mohammed, a farmer who lives near the blast site.
The explosion tore through the Canadian patrol . Four helicopters hovered over the village, and at least two landed to retrieve the wounded and dead soldiers, Mohammed said.
``This attack amounts to a serious violation of international humanitarian law," said Tom Koenigs, the top UN official in Afghanistan.
The commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, Lieutenant General David Richards, said the attack took place as Canadian troops were arranging aid, reconstruction, and development for villagers in the district, which suffered heavy damage during the NATO offensive.
``It is beyond comprehension that a suicide bomber should choose this time to attack, knowing that he could kill innocent children," Richards said in a statement.
At least 36 Canadian soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan since 2002. Five died during Operation Medusa, in which NATO estimated it killed at least 510 insurgents with airstrikes and ground assaults.
On Sunday, Richards called Operation Medusa a success and said NATO had reclaimed crucial territory from the Taliban.
Most of the village's 25 families fled the fighting and only the desperately poor stayed behind, Mohammed said.
``Taliban were in this village before, but now there are fewer remaining," said another villager, shopkeeper Jan Mohammed. ``But if you kill 100 or 1,000 Taliban, another 1,000 will come to continue the fighting."
Most of the recent violence occurred in southern provinces, where some 8,000 NATO soldiers took over military operations from a US-led coalition Aug. 1.
NATO commanders say they need 2,500 more soldiers, plus greater air support, to crush the Taliban threat more quickly.