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Deaths in Afghan handover day blast

At least three people have been killed as a large bomb exploded in the Afghan capital - the day the international military coalition hands over responsibility for fighting the Taliban insurgency to the national army and police they have been training.

Kabul deputy police chief Mohammad Daoud Amin said the blast happened in the Pul-e-Surkh area of the western part of the city, which is miles away from the site of the handover ceremony attended by Nato chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen and Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

A police officer named Asadullah said the target was the convoy of Mohammed Mohaqiq, a prominent ethnic Hazara politician who is a former Cabinet member. Asadullah, who like many Afghans uses just one name, said he saw two bodies lying in the street and a police vehicle was destroyed in the blast.

Mr Mohaqiq survived the blast, according to Nahim Lalai Hamidzai, another member of the Afghan parliament.

General Mohammad Zahir, chief of the Kabul Criminal Investigation Division, said three people were killed by the bombing and another 30 were injured, including six bodyguards.

"The roadside bomb targeted the Mohaqiq convoy, but he safely passed. One of his vehicles was damaged," Gen Zahir said.

The leader of the People's Islamic Unity Party of Afghanistan, Mr Mohaqiq is a member of the National Front, which represents members of the former Northern Alliance that fought the Taliban before the US invasion in 2001. The predominantly ethnic Pashtun Taliban persecuted the Hazara minority during their five-year rule which imposed a radical interpretation of Islamic law.

The Taliban insurgency has been pressing an intense campaign of violence in the run-up to the security handover.

The transition is a major milestone of the 12-year-old war, with the coalition insisting that Afghan security forces it has been training for years are now strong enough to take the lead in the fight against the Taliban.

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