Asia

Kabul blast ahead of Afghanistan security handover

Afghan security forces personnel investigate the site of the explosion in Kabul on 18 June 2013
Image caption The attack took place just before a ceremony attended by President Hamid Karzai

A suicide attacker is believed to have targeted a prominent Afghan politician just as Nato formally handed over command of security to Afghan forces.

The bomb struck in west Kabul near the convoy of Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq, a leader of the Hazara ethnic minority and a former vice president.

Mr Mohaqiq was unhurt, but three people were killed and more than 20 injured - including four of his guards.

Nato forces are handing over control of the last 95 districts.

Mr Mohaqiq said four of his guards were wounded in the attack, which happened near the Independent Human Rights Commission office as he was being driven towards parliament.

"I heard a big explosion on the side of the car," he told the AFP news agency. "Only my cloak is a little burned, other than that I'm fine."

The lawmaker said he had received threats before the attack.

"The intelligence agency was sending letters that I should be careful," he said. "There was a threat against me. I was rarely going to the parliament."

The attack came just before a ceremony - attended by President Hamid Karzai and Nato Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen - to hand over security for the whole of Afghanistan for the first time since the Taliban were ousted in 2001.

It follows two large-scale attacks in Kabul claimed by the Taliban: On 11 June a suicide bomb attack killed at least 16 people and injured more than 40 others outside the Supreme Court.

On 10 June seven insurgents, including suicide bombers, laid siege to the main airport for four hours before they were killed.

The switch of security duties to the 350,000-strong Afghan National Army is a milestone on the road to the final withdrawal of international combat troops at the end of next year.

The handover of security control by the International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) started with Bamiyan in 2011.

The final districts to be handed over include 13 in Kandahar province - the birthplace of the Taliban - and 12 each in Nangarhar, Khost and Paktika, all bastions of insurgent activity along the border with Pakistan.