With just over two weeks remaining before presidential elections in Afghanistan, insurgents rattled nerves Tuesday by lobbing rockets into the capital, injuring two people. A separate suicide attack killed five people in the south.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for firing rockets into an upscale residential neighborhood of Kabul that is home to a number of diplomatic missions and international organizations. One of the projectiles hit about 200 yards from the U.S. Embassy.
Although the dawn barrage of eight rockets caused no deaths and only relatively light property damage, the attack was widely viewed as an attempt by insurgents to foster a sense of insecurity before the Aug. 20 vote for president and provincial assemblies.
Rocket attacks inside Kabul are rare, in part because the capital and sensitive installations such as the international airport are too heavily fortified to allow insurgents to get close enough to aim. The Interior Ministry said the rockets were fired from Deh Sabz, a district about five miles northeast of Kabul.
Evidence found at the scene -- including a ninth, unexploded rocket -- suggested that the attackers had used a portable launcher fitted with a timer device, officials said. One of the rockets fell in front of the home of a senior Interior Ministry official, Gen. Gul Nabi Ahmadzai. But authorities dismissed the possibility that it was aimed specifically at his home.
Officials at the U.S. Embassy also said there was no indication that the embassy was targeted.
The suicide attack in Zabol province, by contrast, appeared aimed at a vehicle carrying members of the country's main intelligence service, the National Directorate of Security. One agent was reported killed in the blast.
But as in many such attacks on security forces, the toll among civilian bystanders was heavy.
The explosion took place in a crowded marketplace, and four civilians were killed and 19 people wounded, most of them civilians as well, provincial officials said.
Elsewhere, the governor of Wardak province, west of Kabul, escaped injury Tuesday when a bomb, apparently triggered by remote control, detonated under his convoy.
Wardak was once considered relatively safe, but militants established a foothold there late last year and have managed to mount continued attacks despite an infusion of U.S. troops and the American-backed creation of a force of "public guards" -- locals who are armed and whose role is to keep the Taliban out of their remote villages.
Three American soldiers were killed Sunday in Wardak, bringing U.S. troop deaths this month in Afghanistan to six.