KABUL, Afghanistan — At least 20 people have been killed in suicide attacks in southern Afghanistan, authorities said Thursday, including seven civilians who died when a bomber blew himself up near an airport used by the U.S.-led coalition.
The attack near the entrance to the airfield in Kandahar — Afghanistan's second largest city and the traditional heartland of the Taliban insurgency — occurred Thursday afternoon when a suicide bomber detonated a white Toyota Corolla, said Zalmai Ayubi, a spokesman for the provincial governor. Two children were among the dead, authorities said.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement on their website. The insurgents said the target was a convoy of foreign nationals who were leaving the airfield, which is one of the largest bases used by the NATO coalition. Many civilians use the busy entrance as well, however.
Another eight civilians, including a woman and two children, were reported wounded. The explosion destroyed four civilian vehicles and two fuel tankers, Ayubi said, but it couldn't be determined whether the tankers belonged to NATO forces.
President Hamid Karzai condemned the attack, saying in a statement that "killing innocent Afghan women and children is a cowardly act and is against Afghan and Islamic culture."
The attack came a day after a blast in neighboring Helmand province targeted a bazaar in the Kajaki district, killing and wounding dozens of civiilans, Afghan forces and members of the NATO coalition, according to a coalition statement. In a separate announcement, the coalition said that one of its members had died in southern Afghanistan. but it didn't specify whether the death occurred in the Kajaki incident.
Daud Ahmadi, a spokesman for the provincial government in Helmand, said 13 people were killed in that incident: 10 civilians and three police officers. Twenty others were wounded.
U.S. Marine Gen. John R. Allen, the coalition's commander, on Thursday called the Helmand attack "horrendous" and accused the Taliban insurgency of declaring "outright war on the people of Afghanistan." He said such attacks wouldn't derail U.S.-led efforts to transfer control of security nationwide to Afghan forces by 2014 and would only isolate the Taliban from peace talks that the U.S. hopes to broker between the insurgency and the Afghan government.
Referring to the Afghan Taliban leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, Allen said, "Mullah Omar has lost all control over Taliban insurgents, otherwise he would immediately denounce these attacks and order his 'forces' to stop attacking innocent Afghan civilians."
A separate blast Thursday in the western province of Farah wounded one child, said Naqibullah Farahi, the provincial governor's spokesman.
(Safi is a McClatchy special correspondent.)
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