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More Than 20 Killed In Separate Afghan Blasts


HERAT, Afghanistan (Reuters) -- A suicide bomber in southwestern Afghanistan killed 17 people today, and an Afghan lawmaker escaped a separate blast on the outskirts of Kabul but five of his bodyguards were killed, officials said.

The provincial governor of southwestern Farah Province, Rohul Amin, said a suicide bomber on a motorcycle detonated his explosives in a crowded area of Farah City, killing 17 people and wounding 29.

Farah Province police chief Faqir Mohammad Askar said the target of the attack was a senior police official, who was killed along with two of his bodyguards.

Taliban spokesman Qari Yusof Ahmadi telephoned Reuters from an undisclosed location and denied his group had carried out the Farah raid.

"Whenever there are civilian casualties, the Taliban deny responsibility," Amin said. "This attack was definitely carried out by the Taliban."

In a separate incident, an Afghan parliament member and former mujahedin commander escaped a roadside-bomb blast unhurt on the outskirts of Kabul today, but five of his bodyguards were killed, said a police official who declined to be named.

Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, who heads an Islamic political party and was a prominent anti-Soviet fighter during the Soviet occupation, was driving in a convoy in Paghman just outside Kabul when the convoy was hit by a bomb placed under a bridge.

Violence in Afghanistan has reached its highest levels since the U.S.-led invasion in late 2001. While Taliban militants normally target foreign and Afghan security forces in their attempt to overthrow the government and drive international troops out of the country, most of the casualties are civilians.

Some 1,500 civilians were killed between January and August this year, according to the United Nations.

The latest attacks come a day after President Hamid Karzai was sworn in for his second five-year term.

In his inaugural speech, Karzai said he wanted Afghan forces to take the lead from international military forces in securing the whole country in five years. There are some 110,000 foreign troops, including 68,000 U.S. soldiers, in Afghanistan.

U.S. President Barack Obama is due to give a decision in the next few weeks on whether to send up to 40,000 more troops that his top commander in Afghanistan, army General Stanley McChrystal, says he needs to quell the strengthening insurgency.