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Taliban's suicide bomber murders 5

A SUICIDE bomber attacked a police drug-eradication unit in southern Afghanistan yesterday, killing five people and wounding 17 others, an official said. The Taliban claimed responsibility.

The attacker struck the patrol in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province, a major drug-producing area, said Kamal Uddin, the deputy provincial police chief.

The members of the force were traveling in a convoy headed for nearby districts to eradicate poppies at the time of the blast, Uddin said.

Five people - two police officers and three civilians - were killed in the blast, said Daud Ahmadi, the spokesman for the provincial governor. The blast also wounded four policemen and 13 civilians, Ahmadi said.

Two police vehicles and three shops were damaged in the explosion, Uddin said.

A spokesman for the Taliban claimed responsibility for the blast in a phone call to an Associated Press reporter in southern Afghanistan.

In a statement, the Interior Ministry blamed "the narcotics mafia" for the attack.

Afghanistan is the world's largest producer of opium, the main ingredient in heroin. The Afghan opium trade accounts for 90 percent of worldwide production. The United Nations last year estimated that US$500 million from the illegal drug trade flows to Taliban fighters and criminal groups.

The top United States and NATO commander in Afghanistan, General David McKiernan, said his troops have increased their targeting of drug operations by 8 to 10 fold in the past four months, specifically for drug lords or operations that could be tied to insurgents and insurgent funding.

McKiernan said on Monday that heroin trafficking was "a debilitating system across this country that eats away at good governance, eats away at progress and it certainly provides a funding source for the insurgency."


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