At least 19 killed in three Afghan suicide attacks

At least 19 people including 10 policemen were killed and 39 wounded in three suicide attacks in Afghanistan Tuesday, officials said, as spring heralded the "fighting season".

Defence Ministry spokesman General Zahir Azimi said "as the season changes we will have more fighting than in winter".

He told a news conference that "attacks on Afghan forces are intensifying" as they take more responsibility for security from US-led NATO troops who are due to withdraw by the end of 2014.

Twelve people died and 28 were wounded when two suicide attackers rammed a car bomb into a government compound near the western city of Herat, President Hamid Karzai's office said in a statement condemning the attack.

Women and children were among the victims, the statement said.

Provincial police chief Sayed Agha Saqeb told reporters that the bombers were being pursued by police when they detonated the vehicle at the entrance to the Guzara district compound along the road from the airport to the city.

"The car was under our surveillance. It was ordered twice to stop but they didn't stop," said the police chief.

"There were two individuals in the car, one was wearing a burqa. One of the bombers is totally shattered and the other person's body is still there with his (suicide) vest still unexploded."

The dead included three policemen, a provincial spokesman said.

Just hours later, four policemen died and five were wounded when three suicide bombers stormed their compound in the southern province of Helmand, a local government spokesman said.

Two of the bombers set off explosives strapped to their bodies and a third was shot dead by police guarding the Musa Qala police offices in the province, Daud Ahmadi, the spokesman for the provincial administration, told AFP.

In the third attack "a suicide bomber on a motorbike targeted a group of local police who were on their way to help police forces attacked earlier in the district," Ahmadi said.

Three policemen were killed and six others, including four police, were injured.

Taliban insurgents fighting to topple the Western-backed government of President Hamid Karzai claimed responsibility for the Helmand attacks.

In the Herat bombing, most of the victims were civilians visiting the local administration offices on business and while it bore their hallmark, the Taliban did not claim that attack.

An AFP reporter, among the first to arrive at the scene, said he saw bodies strewn among rubble and pieces of metal from the bombers' car, while another witness told AFP that women and children were present.

"Shortly before it happened, I saw some women and children there. After the bombing I saw up to 10 people lying in blood," the witness said.

Herat, a business hub on the Iranian border, is normally relatively peaceful as most Taliban attacks are concentrated in their strongholds in the south of the country, including Helmand.

But the start of the new "fighting season" has also seen a major attack in the northern province of Faryab last week, in which three US soldiers and seven Afghans were killed. That attack was claimed by the Taliban.

Also last week, a Taliban suicide bombing killed a local councillor and key ally of Karzai's in the eastern province of Kunar.

NATO has some 130,000 US-led troops fighting the insurgency, which began when the Taliban were ousted from power in a 2001 invasion in the wake of the Al-Qaeda attacks on New York and Washington.

But civilians bear the brunt of the war.

In February, the United Nations said civilian deaths from the Afghan conflict reached a record high in 2011, when 3,021 civilians died -- mostly at the hands of insurgents -- up eight percent from 2,790 in 2010.

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