Afghan police: Pro-peace Muslim cleric, 2 relatives assassinated in eastern Afghanistan

By Amir Shah, AP
Sunday, May 16, 2010

Afghanistan: Pro-peace Muslim cleric assassinated

KABUL, Afghanistan — Militants shot and killed a prominent Muslim cleric who had called for peace in insurgency-wracked Afghanistan along with two members of his family, officials said Monday, the latest in a string of killings targeting figures perceived as pro-government.

Cleric Rahman Gul, his brother and a relative were gunned down in an ambush Sunday while returning to their homes in the Chapa Dara district of Kunar province, the Interior Ministry and provincial police chief Gen. Khalilullah Zaiyie said.

In recent days, Gul, the chief of the district clerical council, had stressed the importance of “peace and stability” across Afghanistan. No one claimed responsibility, but the Taliban insurgents are known to target those who oppose their extreme, militant interpretation of Islam.

The shooting capped a weekend of roadside bombings, assassination, militant attacks and suicide blasts across the country as part of an expected springtime spike in insurgent violence in the war-battered country.

The bloodshed continued Monday. Italy’s Foreign Ministry said two Italian soldiers in the NATO mission were killed by a roadside bomb while riding in a convoy near the western city of Herat. Two other soldiers were wounded.

NATO said two more of its service members died in separate bomb attacks Monday. No other details were immediately available.

The alliance said two U.S. service members had died Sunday in southern Afghanistan. One was killed in an insurgent attack, and the other died of injuries sustained a day earlier, the alliance said, without elaborating.

At least 26 NATO troops, including 16 U.S. service members, have been killed so far this month across Afghanistan, many in the south where NATO troops are moving in as part of a stepped-up security operation in Kandahar.

Late Sunday in Kandahar, a suicide bomber detonated his cache of explosives near the gate of an Afghan Border Police residence. Kandahar Police Chief Sher Mohammed Zazai said at least three people were wounded in the attack in the northeast part of the city.

“There was a suicide attacker on a motorbike who blew himself up when he got near the gate,” Zazai said.

Television images of the scene showed a police sport utility vehicle with its hood and passenger side door bashed in, and a blown-out hole in the wall of the police compound.

Zelmai Ayubi, spokesman for the provincial governor of Kandahar, said at least four border policemen were injured. He said two other suicide attackers entered the police compound but were shot dead by police during a gunbattle before they could detonate their vests of explosives.

The Interior Ministry said later that the two bombers had succeeded in detonating their explosives, killing only themselves.

Earlier Sunday, two militants on a motorbike opened fire in the city of Kandahar on a car belonging to a National Security Directorate official who was on his way to work, Zazai said. The intelligence official’s driver was killed.

At least eight civilians died in roadside bomb blasts over the weekend, the ministry said. One killed five people who were riding in a private vehicle in Chora district of central Oruzgan province; another went off near a shop in the Panjwayi district of Kandahar, killing three children.

A roadside bomb blast killed two police officers who were on patrol and injured another Sunday in Spin Boldak district in Kandahar province, the ministry said.

And a day earlier, insurgents attacked a convoy in Andar district of Ghazni province, killing one private security guard and injuring two others, the ministry said in a statement.

Southern Afghanistan is the birthplace of the Taliban, and has been the hub of some of the fiercest fighting in recent weeks between militants and coalition forces and troops of President Hamid Karzai’s government.

Associated Press Writer Mirwais Khan in Kandahar contributed to this report.

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