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Suicide bombers cause carnage outside Afghan governor's palace

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KANDAHAR -- Three suicide bombers mixing with a crowd of religious pilgrims turned and attacked the provincial governor's palace in Kandahar City Saturday.


Two blew themselves up in the process, also taking the lives of three Afghan National Police officers and two civilians. Ten other people were injured, including four policemen and three women.


Kandahar's recently installed governor, Canadian citizen Toor Wesa, was inside the palace at the time of the attack, which occurred at 12:20 p.m. local time. He was unharmed, but appeared shaken and pale as he addressed local reporters at a news conference a few hours later.


A Vancouver-based agriculture specialist before his appointment in December, Wesa lashed out at the "terrorists" who conducted the attack, calling them cowards whose "hit-and-run war against the people of Afghanistan will never succeed." He then described how the attack unfolded.


The three suicide bombers were mingling among scores of local people outside a Muslim shrine that sits next to the governor's palace in downtown Kandahar. The shrine houses a sacred cloak, believed to have been worn by the Prophet Mohammed.


Security outside the shrine is relatively lax. The front gates to the governor's palace are only a few dozen metres away.


According to Wesa, the attackers then ran at the gates. One blew himself up directly outside the palace perimeter. A second advanced a few metres further before detonating an explosive pack. The third attacker was shot and killed by ANP officers before he could detonate his explosives.


Pieces of human flesh were launched into the palace grounds.


There has been a string of bombings and assassinations inside or near government buildings in Kandahar City in the last three weeks. In late March, a suicide bomber wearing a police uniform detonated a bomb next to a government building that edges the city. At least eight were killed in that attack, including five Afghan National Police officers.


Days later, five suicide bombers stormed Kandahar's provincial council office. One detonated a car bomb at the building's gate, while the others poured into the building's walled compound. They then opened fire with assault rifles. Thirteen people were killed and all five suicide bombers died. The Taliban claimed responsibility.


There was more carnage two weeks ago when machine-gun toting assailants assassinated provincial councillor Sitara Achakzai on a Kandahar City street. Achakzai was one of three women to hold a council office seat in Kandahar province.


Canada's military command in Kandahar has identified the security of the provincial capital a top priority and plans to consolidate efforts there before Afghanistan's presidential election, which is scheduled for August


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