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Dec 18, 8:57 AM EST

Afghanistan: Suicide bomber kills policeman


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KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- An Afghan police officer was killed and three were wounded Thursday when a suspected suicide bomber they were pursuing detonated his explosives-laden vehicle, an official said.

The Taliban issued a statement claiming responsibility for the attack.

The bomber "was trying to enter Kabul with the intention of detonating explosives in a crowded part of the city," said Hashmat Stanekzai, spokesman for the Kabul provincial police chief. "He was being followed by police."

The explosion occurred after police stopped the car, said Kabul provincial police chief, Abdul Rahman Rahimi.

Afghan authorities regularly claim to have thwarted attacks on the capital as the insurgents concentrate on government, military and foreign targets.

Five foreigners have been killed in the past month in attacks on soft targets such as a French-run school last week, where a German aid worker was killed.

The U.S.-led international combat mission, which peaked in 2010 with 140,000 American and NATO troops, ends on Dec. 31. Afghan security forces will assume full responsibility on Jan. 1, with a residual international force of around 13,000 to provide training and support.

The head of Afghanistan's intelligence service said the drawdown of foreign troops had made it more difficult to track down militants.

Under pressure to explain the rise in attacks on Kabul, Rahmatullah Nabil, chief of the National Security Directorate, told parliament Wednesday that the removal of manpower and technology by withdrawing foreign forces had contributed to the spike in violence.

In Helmand province, he said, 65 surveillance balloons had been removed with the closure of U.S. and British bases last month. "Now I have just six agents working there," he said.

Nabil added there were 107 terrorist cells in the provinces surrounding Kabul while the city's preparedness is severely lacking and outdated.

Also Thursday, Kabul criminal investigation chief Farid Afzali said arrests had been made connection with the killing last week of a senior Supreme Court official.

Atiqullah Raoufi was shot dead on Saturday as he was walking from his home to his vehicle by assailants on motorcycles.

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