Afghan police: Explosions hit Kandahar, 2 dead

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AP) — Two explosions struck downtown Kandahar within a minute of each other Monday, killing two civilians in a key southern city where the U.S. is planning an offensive to clear out the Taliban.

The explosions were caused by a car bomb and a motorbike packed with explosives, Kandahar's Deputy Provincial Police Chief Fazel Ahmad Sherzad said.

One of the blasts detonated near the deputy police chief's car, but he was not inside it at the time.

Kandahar is the largest city in southern Afghanistan and the birthplace of the Taliban, which still has considerable support here. A U.S.-led operation planned for this summer aims to clear Kandahar of Taliban fighters and break the grip of warlords who have allowed the fighters to slip back in.

President Barack Obama has ordered 30,000 more troops into Afghanistan, in part to back up the Kandahar offensive. The operation will be a critical test of the Afghan war.

But the Taliban have launched increasingly deadly attacks ahead of the offensive. Since April 12, at least 20 civilians have been killed in Kandahar, including children. Aid workers also have been the target of attack.

The looming offensive and continuing crime and insecurity have rattled Kandahar's half-million inhabitants.