A suicide bomber killed a prominent police chief and his bodyguard Friday in Kandahar, stunning Afghanistan's second-largest city, where security has been a top priority for NATO forces.
The bomber, wearing a police uniform, made his way into police headquarters to target Kandahar provincial Police Chief Khan Mohammad Mujahid, investigator Shir Shah Yousufzai said. Four people were wounded, he said.
The Taliban said Mujahid became a target soon after he was appointed police chief in September. Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi said Mujahid was asked to step down and "stop helping the invaders," but he refused.
Ahmadi warned those working with local police to lay down their weapons.
Otherwise, "their fate will be that of Khan Mohammad," he said.
President Hamid Karzai condemned the bombing, for which he blamed "enemies of peace and stability in Afghanistan" fueled by "outsiders' provocation and direction," an apparent reference to support the Taliban receives in Pakistan. Karzai will host Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani this weekend.
U.S. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of Western forces here, said insurgents were "desperate to prevent the empowerment of the Afghan security forces and the Afghan people."
The bombing came a day after Kandahar police foiled an attempted suicide attack by the Taliban on a local police station, shooting the bomber and detonating his explosives before he could kill anyone.
Last week, three Taliban suicide bombers attacked a police complex on the city's outskirts. As rescuers responded, an ambulance rigged with a bomb exploded, killing two police officers, a soldier and three intelligence officers.
Kandahar and its surrounding province were the focus of a U.S. troop buildup last year, and military officials reported significant gains against insurgents in several key districts surrounding the city.
Afghanistan has seen more than half a dozen significant bombings in the last week as NATO and U.S. troops continued to target insurgent strongholds in the south and east.
On Friday, NATO officials confirmed that a Taliban leader had been captured Wednesday in Kandahar's Maiwand district.
They said Afghan and coalition forces captured Taliban leaders in eastern Lowgar and Wardak provinces this week and a leader of the Haqqani network in Paktika province who helped move fighters and supplies for his group and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.
Meanwhile, the Taliban said it had released all but eight ranking officers among 50 police officers kidnapped last month in the eastern province of Kunar.
Special correspondent Aimal Yaqubi contributed to this report.