Kabul, Afghanistan - At least 21 people were killed in a series of attacks across Afghanistan on Saturday as a U.N. agency announced that May had been the deadliest month for Afghan civilians since 2007.
At least 15 civilians including children and women were killed when a landmine struck their crowded minivan in the restive province of Kandahar.
The dead were eight children, four women and three men, and another woman was injured.
Kandahar is a southern province that's known as the birthplace of the Taliban movement. It shares a border with the Baluchistan province of neighboring Pakistan, which is believed to be the safe heaven for the Taliban leader Mulllah Omar and other senior commanders.
In a separate incident, a suicide bomber blew himself up and killed a senior police commander and three others in the eastern province of Khost.
"The suicide bomber was waiting in a nearby location as the commander of the police quick reaction force left the base. The commander, a police officer and a 12-year-old child were among those killed in the blast, said Mubariz Zadran, the spokesman for the provincial police chief.
It is believed that Col. Zahir Zazai, who was appointed five months ago to the job, was the main target of the attack.
Zadran said that 23 others, including eight police officers and 15 civilians, were hospitalized with injuries.
Violence has increased across the country as President Barack Obama prepares to pull out a number of combat troops from Afghanistan next month. Responsibility for the security of at least three provinces and four cities will be given to the Afghans.
Also Saturday, two police officers were killed and eight others injured when a mine detonated in the eastern province of Laghman, according to a statement issued from the Afghan Interior Ministry.
President Hamid Karzai strongly condemned the suicide attacks in a statement issued from the presidential palace. Karzai was in neighboring Pakistan on Saturday for the first meeting of a joint Afghanistan-Pakistan peace commission.
"The terrorists are afraid of peace process developments, and by planting landmines on the roads which civilians use and carrying out suicide attacks on security forces they want to pretend that peace efforts fail," Karzai said in the statement.
Also Saturday, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan announced that May had been the deadliest month for Afghan civilians since 2007. The agency documented 368 conflict-related civilian deaths in May and 593 civilian injuries.
Anti-government forces were responsible for 82 percent of the all civilians killed in the conflict, the agency said; pro-government forces were responsible for 12 percent of the deaths.
© 2011 McClatchy-Tribune Information Services
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