`Suicide bomber` kills policeman in Afghanistan

Experts warn Taliban insurgency is becoming active in northern Afghanistan.

Kunduz: A suicide bomber killed an Afghan policeman and wounded five civilians in Kunduz on Thursday, the second deadly attack on government security forces in the northern city this week.

The attacker walked up to a checkpoint in a crowded area of the city centre and blew up a suicide vest strapped to his body, officials and witnesses said.

Several of those wounded are thought to be shopkeepers working near by.

The attack came four days after militants armed with guns and suicide vests attacked an Army recruitment centre in Kunduz, killing eight people in a day-long siege.

Experts warn that the Taliban insurgency is becoming increasingly active in northern Afghanistan, having expanded from its traditional powerbase in the south, where US-led NATO troops are concentrating the fight to reverse their momentum.

A Taliban spokesman could neither confirm nor deny responsibility for the attack.

"At around 8:00 am (0330 GMT), a man wearing a suicide vest walked up to a traffic post in the centre of Kunduz city," the head of the local provincial council, Mahboobullah Mahboob, said.

"A guard tried to prevent him from entering the post, the suicide attacker detonated explosives strapped to his body.”

"One traffic policeman was killed and five civilians were injured in the explosion."

The attack was confirmed by the Interior Ministry in Kabul.

One man who received shrapnel injuries in the blast, 30-year-old Abdul Wakeel, told how he had gone shopping with his family on what is the first day of the weekend in Afghanistan.

"Minutes after I got there, I heard an explosion," he said, speaking from Kunduz`s main hospital.

"I felt a pain in my stomach and I realised I was injured. I blame the Taliban for this explosion as they always carry out suicide attacks in crowded areas without any regard for civilians` lives."

The attack came as the UN envoy to Afghanistan, Staffan de Mistura, warned that the Taliban could attempt "spectacular attacks" in coming months.

"I`m afraid for the next few months for a tense security environment... Our assessment is before it gets better it may get worse," he said on Wednesday.

NATO-led international forces, around two-thirds of whom are American, have been waging a nine-year battle against Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan.

The Taliban were ousted from power by a US-led invasion after the September 11, 2001 attacks, which Washington linked to al Qaeda militants being harboured by the hardline Islamists.

This year has seen the highest death toll yet for international forces in Afghanistan -- 705.

Civilian deaths for the first 10 months of the year stood at 2,412, up 20 percent on the same period last year, according to the UN.

Taliban insurgents frequently attack Afghan Army and police, which are due to assume responsibility for security in the country by 2014, a timetable agreed by a NATO summit in Lisbon last month.

The United States is expected to start a limited withdrawal of some troops from July 2011, although President Barack Obama has acknowledged that combat soldiers might remain into 2015.

Bureau Report