KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghan villagers discovered on Sunday the beheaded bodies of six government contractors in the country's insurgency-racked south, the apparent victims of Taliban insurgents who regularly target state projects, officials said.
Meanwhile, the death toll from a suicide vehicle bomb attack on the site of a key national council in the capital Kabul has risen to 12, officials said, while NATO said an international service member was killed by a roadside bomb.
The Taliban took credit for the Saturday blast outside the huge tent where the Loya Jirga is to be held later this week, during which thousands of prominent Afghans are scheduled to meet to debate a contentious security agreement with the United States.
The suicide bomber detonated his explosive-laden vehicle after being spotted by Afghan security personnel guarding the site, said Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi. He said three of the 12 dead were members of Afghanistan's National Security Force with most of the rest civilians. The Taliban gave the bomber's name as Saeed Kabuli, but provided few other details.
Hours before the blast, President Hamid Karzai announced that U.S. and Afghan negotiators had completed a final draft of the Bilateral Security Agreement to be presented to the gathering for debate. If approved, it would allow U.S. troops to stay in Afghanistan after the final withdrawal of international combat forces in 2014.
NATO did not announce the nationality of the service member killed in the south, according to its rules. Most troops serving in southern Afghanistan are from Britain and the United States.
So far this year 139 NATO service members have been killed in Afghanistan, according to Associated Press figures. This compares to 394 troops of the NATO-led coalition killed in 2012.
Also in southern Afghanistan, where a stubborn insurgency flourishes, police said they recovered the decapitated bodies of six government contractors.
Kandahar police spokesman Ahmed Durrani said villagers found the bodies. He said the men were involved in building police compounds and checkpoints in Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban.
In northern Afghanistan, a suicide bomber attacked the deputy governor of Balkh province. While the official escaped unhurt, one civilian was killed, said Balkh police spokesman Sher Jan Durrani.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for either attack, but the Taliban have previously targeted both officials and contractors, warning Afghans against working for the government.
Kathy Gannon is AP Special Regional Correspondent for Afghanistan and Pakistan and can be followed at www.twitter.com/kathygannon . Writers Rahim Faiez in Kabul and Mirwais Khan in Kandahar contributed to this report