Acting Afghan governor injured in Khost blast

KHOST: A blast in his office wounded the acting governor of a southeastern Afghan province on Thursday, a sign of deteriorating security in an area on the Pakistani border where seven CIA employees were killed last week.

Tahir Khan Sabri, acting governor of Khost province, was hurt along with seven other people, including police and senior provincial officials, said Mohammad Nawab, a senior Afghan army general in the province.

The wounds were not life threatening, but the blast inside the heavily-guarded governor’s compound appeared to be a sign of militants’ ability to penetrate deeper into areas considered secure by Afghan authorities and their Western backers.

Khost, which borders on the remote mountainous Pakistani region of North Waziristan, has been a central front between US forces and militants, especially a Taliban-allied faction led by former anti-Soviet guerrilla chief Jalaluddin Haqqani.

Last week in the province a suicide bomber reported to be an al Qaeda-linked Jordanian double agent killed seven CIA employees in the deadliest attack against the US intelligence agency in decades.

The CIA attack raised concern Haqqani’s Pakistan-based Afghan militants could be working more closely with foreign al Qaeda operatives to hit Western and Afghan targets.

There was no immediate report of a claim of responsibility for Thursday’s blast, but Haqqani’s followers and their Taliban allies have carried out numerous attacks in the past in the province with a growing degree of sophistication.

Separately, the Afghan National Department of Security in Kabul said on Thursday its members killed five militants in an encounter outside the town of Khost, the provincial capital.

The deaths included two would-be suicide bombers and three militants involved in organising such attacks.

In another development, four members of a family were wounded when one of the three rockets fired by the militants hit a residential area to the south of Kabul city overnight, a senior police officer in the Afghan capital said.

More than eight years since their ouster by US-backed Afghan troops, the Taliban have made a comeback in recent years, making last year the bloodiest of the war.

The worsening violence comes despite the increasing number of foreign troops, now standing at more than 110,000. To turn the tide, President Barack Obama has begun sending 30,000 more US troops, while saying they will start to pull out in mid-2011.

The UN special envoy to the country on Wednesday warned the United States and other Western powers not to let the planned troop surge divert attention from civilian and political goals.

Kai Eide spoke to the Security Council about his concern over flagging support in Western public opinion, impatience among Afghans at the slow pace of reconstruction and the persistence of the insurgency.

“If these negative trends are not soon reversed, then there is a risk that they will become unmanageable,” said Eide, a Norwegian diplomat expected to leave his post in March.

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