Page last updated at 10:24 GMT, Monday, 18 February 2008

Afghan bomb toll 'rises to 100'

The Taleban have carried out numerous attacks in Kandahar

Funerals have been held in the Afghan city of Kandahar for the victims of Sunday's suicide attack that officials now say killed more than 100 people.

The bombing - believed to be the bloodiest since 2001 - hit a crowd watching a dogfight near the city.

The dead include a local police chief. Officials blamed the Taleban who deny responsibility.

Taleban attacks have risen sharply recently, prompting some members of a Nato force to demand more troops.

Fifteen international troops have been killed in Afghanistan this year, most of them from the US.

Some 40,000 soldiers from Nato countries are deployed in the country, where their tasks include aiding reconstruction, tackling opium cultivation and battling the Taleban.

Governor's 'warning'

Sunday's suicide bombing created a scene of carnage, scattering personal belongings and body parts over a wide area and turning the ground red with blood.

29 Dec 2007: 16 policemen killed in Kandahar
6 Nov 2007: At least 70 die in attack on sugar factory in Baghlan province
29 Sep 2007: At least 30 soldiers killed in bus attack in Kabul
16 Jan 2006: At least 24 people killed in two attacks in Kandahar

Dog-fighting competitions, which were banned under the Taleban regime, are a popular pastime in Afghanistan.

Doctors in Kandahar said they were overwhelmed by the injured.

Kandahar's governor Assadullah Khalid said on Monday that the death toll had risen to more than 100, and more than 100 people had been hurt.

Weeping relatives buried the victims, many of them in graves dug next to each other.

Officials have blamed the Taleban for the attack but a spokesman for the Islamist militia has denied the group was responsible.

The dead included Abdul Hakim Jan, a powerful tribal leader who was a police chief and militia leader opposed to the Taleban.

Kandahar's governor, Asadullah Khalid told mourners at mosque on Monday that he had warned Mr Jan of a possible attempt on his life several weeks ago, the Associated Press news agency reports.

The agency quotes a local police chief as saying 1,500 people participated in Monday's funerals and 35 of the dead were members of Mr Jan's militia.

Southern Afghanistan is a Taleban stronghold and last week the Kandahar governor himself was the target of an attempt on his life.

Taleban influence

The Taleban claim to have influence across most of the country and have extended their area of control from their traditional heartland in the south.

They have a significant presence around Kandahar from where they carry out suicide attacks and roadside bomb blasts.

The militants are also able to operate freely in Wardak province, neighbouring the capital Kabul.

Last year, violence in Afghanistan reached its highest levels since the Taleban were forced from power in 2001, analysts say.

Last November, a suicide bombing in the northern Baghlan province killed 79 people - mostly school pupils - in what was until then the bloodiest bombing since the Taleban were ousted in 2001.

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