KANDAHAR, Afghanistan – A homicide bomber driving an oil tanker detonated his explosives outside an Afghan government office during a provincial council meeting Wednesday, killing at least six people and wounding 42, officials said.
The attack in this former Taliban stronghold in southern Afghanistan ripped through the council office, flattened five nearby homes and damaged the offices of the country's intelligence service. The bomb dug a crater some 15 feet into the ground.
Six people died and 42 were wounded in the blast, said Rahmatullah Raufi, the governor of Kandahar province. Among the dead were two intelligence agents, a police officer and three civilians, Raufi said.
He blamed Taliban militants for the attack.
"The Taliban want to disrupt law and order in Kandahar," Raufi said.
The blast came as the provincial council was hearing constituent complaints. Two council members were wounded in the attack, Dr. Amayun Shafi at Kandahar's main hospital said.
Afghan police, soldiers and intelligence agents were at the site, as were Canadian soldiers.
Hours earlier in Kandahar, two men on a motorcycle threw acid on eight Afghan girls walking to school Wednesday, and three of the girls were hospitalized with serious burns, said Dr. Sharifa Siddiqi. Three others were treated and released.
Two of the girls who were wearing full-length burqas were not harmed.
Some of the girls wore a typical Afghan school uniform — black pants, a white shirt, black coat and white headscarf.
Atifa Bibi, 14, said from her hospital bed that two men rode up to the girls and threw the acid while they were walking to school. Bibi had burns on her face, which was covered in medical cream.
Girls were banned from schools under the Taliban's hard-line Islamist regime, which ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. Women also were not allowed to leave the house without a male family member escorting them.
Bibi's aunt, Bibi Meryam, said the family had not received any threats not to send their girls to school, but now they would consider keeping the girls at home until security stabilized.
Afghanistan's government condemned the attack, calling it un-Islamic and perpetrated by the "country's enemies," a usual reference for Taliban militants.
"By such actions, they cannot prevent 6 million children going to school," the government said in a statement.
No one immediately claimed responsibility, and Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi denied that the insurgents were involved.