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Suicide motorbike attack kills 20 in Afghanistan

Karzai warns nation could again be stage for terror strikes

KABUL, Afghanistan -- A suicide bomber drove a motorbike into a crowd at a wrestling match in an Afghan border town yesterday, killing 20 people. It was the third deadly bombing in a little over 24 hours in the Taliban's former stronghold province of Kandahar.

The assault came shortly after a bomb targeted a truck convoy of Afghan soldiers in Kandahar city, killing four people and wounding 16.

On Sunday, a suicide car bomber in that southern provincial capital killed a senior Canadian diplomat and two Afghan civilians.

The attack on the wrestling match in Spinboldak was the bloodiest yet in a string of two dozen suicide bombings the past four months.

It is a relatively new tactic for militants here and has stoked fears of an escalating siege of bloody attacks like those in Iraq.

Earlier yesterday, President Hamid Karzai warned that Afghanistan could again become a staging post for terrorist strikes on Europe and America if international support wavers.

In Spinboldak, a man with explosives strapped to his body blew himself up after riding a motorbike into the midst of about 100 wrestling fans at a fair marking the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.

''The motorcycle went up into the air in flames," said Abdul Samad, who was in the crowd. ''It was like doomsday . . . Some did not have their hands; others had their legs missing."

Kandahar's governor, Asadullah Khalid, put the toll at 20 dead and at least 30 wounded. Rafiq Tarin, a Pakistani official in Chaman, said more than 30 people were treated at the hospital there, including many in critical condition.

Qari Mohammed Yusaf, who claims to speak for the Taliban, although his exact ties to the group's leadership are unclear, said its fighters had planted the bomb that struck the Afghan army convoy in Kandahar city, but denied involvement in the Spinboldak attack.

''The Taliban didn't do this suicide attack. We are targeting coalition and government forces but we are not targeting civilians," he said in a phone call from an undisclosed location to an Associated Press reporter in Afghanistan.

Karzai, talking to reporters in Kabul about a foreign donors' conference in London this month, urged the international community not to turn its back on fighting terrorism in his country four years after a US-led military offensive drove the Taliban from power for harboring Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda training camps.

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