Taliban insurgents shot six police officers dead at a checkpoint as a suicide bomber killed three civilians at a shopping bazaar in two attacks in eastern Afghanistan.
The attacks came during a surge in hostilities as Afghanistan's spring fighting season begins. This year's is being closely watched because Afghan forces must operate with less support from the international military coalition. With foreign forces due to hand over combat responsibilities to the local forces next year, the current fighting is a test of their ability to take on the country's insurgency.
Reflecting the surge in violence, the Afghanistan NGO Safety Office reported on Sunday that insurgent-initiated attacks increased by 47% during the first quarter of 2013 compared with the same period last year. The US-led Nato coalition has stopped releasing statistics on insurgent attacks in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan's defence ministry said the Afghan army carried out 2,209 military operations during a month-long period ending on Sunday. During that time, 467 insurgents and 107 soldiers were killed, and 362 militants were arrested, the ministry said in the report.
April has been the deadliest month this year for security forces and Afghan and foreign civilians. According to an AP tally, 222 people have been killed in violence around the nation this month, including the latest nine fatalities.
The Taliban assault on the checkpoint came early on Sunday in the Dayak district of Ghazni province, killing six police officers, wounding one and leaving one missing, said Colonel Mohammad Hussain, Ghazni's deputy police chief. One of many Afghan local police forces was running the checkpoint.
On Friday, Taliban insurgents attacked a local police checkpoint in Andar, a district of Ghazni province neighbouring Dayak, killing 13 officers.
The second attack hit Paktika province, which borders Ghazni. A suicide bomber detonated his explosives in a shopping bazaar around midday, killing three people and wounding five civilians and two police officers, said Mokhlis Afghan, the spokesman for the provincial governor. Among the dead was Asanullah Sadat, who stepped down as the district's governor two years ago.
Zabiullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing. He said the Taliban used the bomber to target Sadat because of his close relations with the Afghan government and the US.