Afghan Forces Take Security Control Despite Deadly Attacks

Posted July 20th, 2011 at 5:20 pm (UTC-5)
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Insurgents launched deadly attacks in cities across Afghanistan Wednesday, as the coalition continued to transfer security control to Afghan forces.

In the southern city of Kandahar, a gunbattle between local forces and insurgents killed three police officers, including the district chief, and two militants.

Hours later, a suicide bomber on a bicycle blew himself up in the capital of northern Balkh province, Mazar-i-Sharif, killing at least four civilians and wounding 12 others. The city is one of seven areas where foreign forces are handing over security responsibility to Afghan troops.

Earlier Wednesday, NATO transferred control of Lashkar Gah, the capital of southern Helmand province, to the Afghans. Helmand Governor Gulab Mangal told VOA by phone it was a historic day. He said local security forces are “ready and happy” to take command.

The southern city is the third area to be handed over to the Afghan government after central Bamiyan province and the relatively peaceful capital of eastern Laghman province, Mehterlam.

The transfers are the first phase of a plan that will see all of the country's security under Afghan control in the next three years. International combat troops are set to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

Meanwhile, the Afghan Taliban has denied that its leader Mullah Omar is dead, saying a text message announcing his death was a fake.

A Taliban spokesman said Wednesday the message was sent after the insurgent group's phones and website were hacked. He blamed U.S. intelligence agencies.

Rumors of Omar's death periodically arise, including in March when an Afghan news channel said he had been killed by members of Pakistan's military spy agency.

The one-eyed Afghan Taliban leader has a $10-million bounty on his head. He implemented strict Islamist rule while leading Afghanistan during the 1990s.