The governor of Helmand, a key British ally in Afghanistan, was the target of a suicide bomb attack yesterday which killed 18 people.
The bomb was detonated at the front gate of the home and office of Mohammed Daoud Safi in the provincial capital, Lashkar Gar. Nine soldiers and nine civilians, including pilgrims seeking paperwork to travel to Mecca for the haj, were among those dead.
Mr Daoud, seen as President Hamid Karzai's main emissary in the war-torn south, was inside the building but escaped unhurt. He was instrumental in the deployment of British forces in the Taliban stronghold of Sangin Valley, appealing for help after an upsurge of Islamist activity in the area.
The bomber approached Mr Daoud's compound on foot and blew himself up after being challenged by a sentry. Qari Yousaf Ahmadi, who claims to be a spokesman for the Taliban in southern Afghanistan, claimed responsibility.
Ghulam Muhiddin, Mr Daoud's spokesman, insisted that "innocent civilians and Afghan soldiers" - not the governor - were the bomber's targets. However, the attack came 48 hours after the murder of Safia Amajan, a prominent women's rights activist in Kandahar. The governor of Paktia province was assassinated this month. Twenty-one died in Lashkar Gar in late August when a suicide bomber tried to kill a former police chief, and last week 19 construction workers were killed in Kandahar.
* A bomb attack against a Nato patrol just south of the Afghan capital killed an Italian soldier and a child. The bomb planted under a bridge detonated when a military convoy passed by, Kabul police said. Chief Cpl Major Giorgio Langella was killed in the blast, and five Italian soldiers were wounded, two seriously.Reuse content