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15 killed in Afghan suicide attacks

Fifteen people have been killed after suicide bombers struck two government offices in southern and western Afghanistan as militants step up attacks across the country, authorities said.

Four policemen were killed at the local police office in the Musa Qala district of Helmand province in the south. Another three policemen and eight civilians died in a large blast in Herat province in western Afghanistan.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for both attacks in telephone messages to the media. Militants have been targeting Afghan and Nato security forces as they fight to assert their power and undermine US efforts to try to build up Afghan forces.

Afghanistan's police and army are increasingly shouldering the job of providing security with the planned exit of most foreign combat troops by the end of 2014.

In Helmand, three suicide attackers wearing vests laden with explosives parked their car outside the police office and walked toward the entrance, said Daud Ahmadi, a provincial spokesman.

Police fired at the attackers, killing one. Two others blew themselves up inside the compound, Ahmadi said. He initially reported that eight policemen died but later revised the toll, saying that four policemen were killed and five wounded, including the district commander.

Earlier, a group of suicide bombers blew up their truck outside the Guzara district office in Herat province. Two men and a woman wearing a burqa were found dead inside the vehicle that exploded at the gate of the district building where people were waiting to see government officials about various business matters.

Raouf Ahmedi, a spokesman for the police commander of the western region of Afghanistan, said police in the area had received a tip that the black four-wheel-drive vehicle was loaded with explosives, leading to a massive detonation.

Mr Ahmedi said 11 people were killed - three policemen who were guarding the district building and seven civilians. Twenty-two others were wounded, including children.

Barriers at the blast site were blackened and investigators examined charred remains of what was left of the vehicle. Several of the wounded were loaded into the back of police pickup trucks and taken to a hospital. Rescue workers wrapped those killed in white sheets and carried them from the site.

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