Suicide attack kills seven Afghans

JALALABAD: A suicide attacker blew up a vehicle carrying a provincial mayor in eastern Afghanistan Monday, killing the official and six other people, the interior ministry said.

A spokesman for the Taliban, Zabihullah Mujahid, claimed responsibility for the attack in Laghman province, which is adjacent to the capital Kabul.

The mayor of Laghman, Mohammad Rahim Rahim, was one of the most senior officials in province after the governor.

"The mayor, three of his bodyguards and three civilians were martyred," the ministry said. Three civilians were also wounded in the incident, it said.

The blast was outside the municipality building in the provincial capital of Mihtarlam, provincial government spokesman Sayed Ahmad Safi told AFP The attacker walked up to the mayor's vehicle as he was leaving his office and detonated explosives strapped to his body, he said.

In Afghanistan provincial mayors head municipal and public works for the province.

The Taliban were in government between 1996 and 2001 and are waging an insurgency against the new government led by President Hamid Karzai.

They warned last week that they would step up attacks on government officials as well as on Afghan soldiers and the nearly 70,000 international troops who support them.

Karzai headed to Washington Monday to meet US President Barack Obama and Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari for talks on fighting the Islamist threat in the region.

Obama has put the spotlight firmly on Taliban and Al-Qaeda extremists straddling the Afghan and Pakistan border, pledging more troops and resources to eliminate what he has called an international threat.

He has also pushed for more cooperation between the Islamic neighbours to deal with the militants, expressing concern about the fragility of Pakistan's eight-month-old civilian government, which has made concessions to the Taliban.