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Last Updated: Thursday, 31 January 2008, 16:10 GMT
Blast kills top Afghan official
Afghan police at the site of the suicide attack at the mosque in Lashkar Gah

The deputy governor of Afghanistan's Helmand province has been killed in a bomb attack on a mosque, officials say.

Deputy governor Haji Pir Mohammed was one of seven people - including the bomber - killed in the explosion at the start of afternoon prayers.

Eighteen people were also hurt in the suicide bombing in Helmand's provincial capital, Lashkar Gah, police said.

The Taleban say they carried out the attack. Helmand is a major stronghold of the Taleban.

Most of the 6,000 British troops serving as part of a Nato force in Afghanistan are also based in the southern province and Canada has 2,500 troops there.

UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband said the death of Mr Pir Mohammed "is a horrific reminder of the difficulties we face in Afghanistan".

He said "the sheer scale of the task [in Afghanistan] is enormous and we will succeed only if we have better coordination" between the international community and the Afghan government.

Helmand is a centre for opium production and international efforts to curb the trade have had limited effect.

Deputy Helmand Governor Haji Pir Mohammed
Mr Pir Mohammed was killed at the start of afternoon prayers

The attack comes as three Western reports warn that Nato is not winning in Afghanistan and the country faces a humanitarian catastrophe.

Attacks by the Taleban during the past year have been the highest recorded since the regime was ousted by US-led forces in 2001.

According to Helmand's police chief, Mohammed Hussain Andiwal, Thursday's attack took place at the start of afternoon prayers in the mosque.

Child beggar

He said Mr Pir Mohammed had just earlier been in a meeting with Helmand's governor.

Those hurt included a four-year-old child who had been begging at the mosque's entrance, Mr Andiwal said.

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According to a local health official interviewed by AFP news, six bodies had been brought to a local hospital, "including the deputy provincial governor".

The mosque where the attack took place is said to be close to several provincial government offices.

Meanwhile in Kabul, a suicide bomber driving a car killed one civilian and injured four others, including an army officer.

The interior ministry said the attacker targeted an army bus close to the city centre. The device is thought to have gone off early.



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Scene of a suicide bomb attack targeting an army bus





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