Kandahar (Afghanistan): Three explosions struck Kandahar on Monday morning, killing two civilians amid a wave of violence that has swept the key southern Afghan city where the US is planning an offensive to clear out the Taliban.
The UN said Monday that the deteriorating security situation impelled it to temporarily move some foreign employees to Kabul and tell more than 200 Afghan personnel in the city to stay home.
UN spokesman Dan McNorton on Monday insisted that the organization is not permanently pulling out of the southern Afghan city and remains committed to offering its programs and humanitarian assistance there.
Two of the blasts — which occurred within a minute of one another from bombs planted about 30 feet (10 meters) apart in downtown Kandahar — were aimed at the passing convoy of Deputy Provincial Police Chief Fazel Ahmad Sherzad.
"They were targeting the car I normally use, but luckily I was not in it at the time," Sherzad said.
About two hours later, a third blast struck north of the city.
The looming offensive and a surge in militant attacks — on local officials, aid workers and contractors for US development projects — has left Kandahar`s half-million inhabitants increasingly terrified.
"The security in this city is deteriorating," said Enayutullah Khan, 43, a rickshaw driver. "People leave their homes only to find food for their children. Otherwise we don`t leave the house."
Rangina Hamidi, who runs a Kandahar-based handicrafts business that employs about 200 women, said many of her workers had been too frightened to come to work in recent days.
"It`s very scary. We don`t know what is happening," said Hamidi, whose employees sew embroidered clothing, tablecloths and shawls.
Kandahar is the largest city in southern Afghanistan and the birthplace of the Taliban, which still has considerable support here. A US-led operation planned for this summer aims to clear Kandahar of Taliban fighters and break the grip of warlords who have allowed the fighters to slip back in.
President Barack Obama has ordered 30,000 more troops into Afghanistan, in part to back up the Kandahar offensive. The operation will be a critical test of the Afghan war.
But the Taliban have launched increasingly deadly attacks ahead of the offensive. Since April 12, at least 20 civilians have been killed in Kandahar, including children. Aid workers also have been targeted.