17 Killed in Suicide Attack at Afghan Public Bath

A suicide bomber killed 17 people and wounded another 21 in assassinating a police commander at a public bath in a southern Afghan town on the border with Pakistan, the local government said.

"A suicide bomber blew up explosives strapped to his chest at a public bath in Spin Boldak," border police official General Abdul Razaq told Agence France Presse.

He put the death toll at 13, but the provincial government spokesman later confirmed that at least 17 people had died in the attack.

"Twenty-one people were also wounded," said the spokesman, Zalmay Ayoubi, from the provincial capital, Kandahar.

The Kandahar administration released a statement saying that the bomber had been targeting a "police commander" named "Ramazan," who died in the attack.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast, but such attacks are trademarks of the Taliban, who are fighting to bring down the Western-backed Afghan government and expel 140,000 US-led foreign troops.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates this week ordered an extra 1,400 Marines to southern Afghanistan in what the Pentagon said would put pressure on the Taliban in order to pre-empt a traditional insurgent offensive in the spring.

Defense officials expressed hope that the extra troops would bolster areas recently cleared between Kandahar city and Helmand province.

There are about 97,000 American troops in Afghanistan and 45,000 from other countries. Officials said the new Marines would not push the total number of U.S. forces above the limit of 100,000 authorized by President Barack Obama.

Source: Agence France Presse

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