Afghan poppy-kill team is attacked

April 30, 2008|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

KABUL, Afghanistan -- A suicide bomber and gunmen attacked a drug-eradication team in eastern Afghanistan yesterday, killing at least 19 people and injuring more than 40, authorities said.

Twelve police officers were among the dead in the assault, the latest in a string of attacks by militants against government teams responsible for destroying the lucrative opium poppy crop during the planting season. The insurgency is fueled with profits from the drug trade.

The seven other people killed were civilians, the Interior Ministry said in a statement. The attack was tightly coordinated, with insurgents firing rocket-propelled grenades and raking the area with gunfire immediately after the explosion.

The injured included two Australian journalists, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. said.

The attack took place in Nangarhar province, outside the provincial capital, Jalalabad. Together with Afghanistan's south, Nangarhar province, which borders Pakistan, is a major center of poppy cultivation. Afghanistan produces more than 90 percent of the world's opium.

Elsewhere, Afghanistan's chief of intelligence acknowledged to lawmakers that the security services had received a warning about a weekend assassination attempt against President Hamid Karzai.

The Afghan leader escaped unharmed, but three other people, including a member of parliament, were killed by gunfire. The brazen attack on a ceremony in downtown Kabul deepened many ordinary citizens' security fears.

The intelligence official, Amrullah Saleh, told parliament that security services had "technical information" that insurgents had plotted for more than a month to attack the ceremony marking the victory of Afghan mujahedeen over the Soviet army in the 1980s.

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