Suicide bomber kills six in Afghanistan

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A suicide car bomber killed a deputy governor and five other people in eastern Afghanistan today, police said.

In an emotional speech, President Hamid Karzai urged Afghans to decry such violence amid concerns that young people will choose to flee their country.

The attack happened as the official was driving towards his office in Ghazni city, said Ghazni province police chief Zarawar Zahid. The bomber rammed into one of the vehicles in the two-car convoy, sparking a large blast.

All of those in the convoy were killed, including Deputy Governor Khazim Allayar, his adult son, his driver and three bodyguards, Mr Zahid said. Twelve people nearby were wounded, he added.

Afghan government officials are prime targets for the Taliban and other insurgent groups which have instituted an assassination campaign against people who work with either the Afghan government or Nato forces.

Mr Allayar had held the post for more than seven years. He survived a bombing attempt in Ghazni city just two months ago.

Mr Karzai called on his fellow Afghans to decry such violence during a speech in the capital about literacy efforts in the country.

"Our sons cannot go to school because of bombs and suicide attacks. Our teachers cannot go to school because of clashes and threats of assassination. Schools are closed," he said.

Mr Karzai said he fears that those among Afghanistan's youth who can flee have no choice but to abandon their country. They go to school abroad and then become estranged from Afghanistan.

"I don't want my son Mirwais to be a foreigner. I want Mirwais to be Afghan," Mr Karzai said, breaking into tears on the podium

Wiping his face, he asked Afghans not to use war as an excuse to let their country fall apart and to build up their homeland despite the difficulties.

To the Taliban, he said: "My countrymen, do not destroy your own soil to benefit others."

He said the people of Afghanistan, buffeted by war for decades, are once again victims in the current fight.

"Now Nato is here and they say they are fighting terrorism, and this is the 10th year and there is no result yet," he said, explaining that Afghans are caught up in the violence between the goals of Western powers and militants backed by other countries.

"Whoever has any problem, they come to Afghanistan to find a solution," he said.

Much of the anger at outsiders comes from the tense relationship between Afghanistan and neighbouring Pakistan, which militants use as a safe haven for launching attacks and planning strategy.

Mr Karzai has regularly called on the international community to spend more effort chasing down insurgents across the border in Pakistan, a contentious issue because Nato forces do not want to be seen as an invading force. The international coalition has therefore depended mostly on drones for attacks in Pakistan, but manned aircraft have also crossed the border in pursuit of insurgents.

Most recently, Pakistan has been protesting over Nato helicopter strikes which killed more than 70 militants last week, saying that UN rules do not allow the choppers to cross into its airspace even in hot pursuit of insurgents.

Nato said it launched the strikes in self-defence after militants attacked a small security post in Afghanistan, near the border.

The dispute over the strikes only fuels unease between the two countries. The Pakistani military has fought Pakistani Taliban fighters, but it has resisted pressure to move against the al Qaida-linked Haqqani network. The Haqqanis, who control vast stretches of territory in North Waziristan and the bordering Afghan province of Khost, carry out attacks in Afghanistan - but not in Pakistan.

Meanwhile, Mr Karzai's office said it was looking into the possible deaths of civilians in Laghman province, north-east of the capital, Kabul. Nato forces said one Afghan civilian was killed by a coalition service member in Laghman's Alishing district on Sunday. It said an investigation was continuing into the circumstances of the man's death.

Civilian deaths are a very sensitive issue in Afghanistan. Protests were held in Laghman after about 30 insurgents were killed during an operation involving a combined force of more than 250 Afghan army, Afghan police and coalition soldiers last week. Nato said no civilians were harmed in that operation.