A suicide bomber blew himself up today at the gate of the police headquarters in Lashkar Gah in southern Afghanistan, killing at least five security officers in a city where Afghans have recently taken control of security.
The blast was the latest in a string of attacks in the south in recent weeks that have included assassinations of high-level government officials in neighboring Kandahar and a coordinated attack against government buildings in Uruzgan province that killed 19 people last week.
The attack early today, which ripped a gaping hole in the station compound's wall, also wounded as least 12 people, said Helmand provincial spokesman Daoud Ahmadi. He said the dead included 10 police officers and one child.
People at the site said they saw a police vehicle on fire at the gate. Ahmadi said a suicide bomber apparently drove a car between two police vehicles at the entrance and then set detonated the explosives.
Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi claimed responsibility for the attack.
It has been less than two weeks since Lashkar Gah was formally handed over to Afghan control in the first stage of a plan to have all of Afghanistan under the oversight of Afghan security forces by the end of 2014. It is the capital city of a province that has been a stronghold for the insurgency and where US Marines have surged in over the past year to try to turn back the Taliban.
The attack comes as Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, tours Afghanistan for a second day. He has been meeting with military commanders and troops in the south, a region that has been rocked by violence and suicide attacks in recent weeks. Mullen visited a base outside Kandahar city on Sunday morning.
Mullen told reporters that the top US commander in Afghanistan has until mid-October to submit a plan for the initial withdrawal of American troops. Mullen's comments for the first time laid out a deadline for Marine Gen. John Allen to submit plans for the withdrawal of 10,000 US troops by the end of the year.
His decisions may hinge in part on whether the latest surge in attacks continues through the holy month of Ramadan, which starts Monday.
In the east, meanwhile, an international service member was killed today in a pre-dawn bomb attack, according to a NATO forces statement.
The statement did not provide further details on today's attack, nor the nationality of the dead.
At least 48 international service members have been killed in Afghanistan in July, including the latest death.