KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — On the first day of its promised spring offensive, the Taliban used a 12-year-old boy as a suicide bomber in an attack Sunday that killed four civilians, President Hamid Karzai said, calling the child's recruitment inhumane and un-Islamic.
It was one of several attacks across the country that killed seven people, government officials said.
The insurgent movement announced in a statement Saturday that it would step up operations against military bases, convoys and Afghan officials, including members of the peace council working to reconcile with top insurgent leaders. The yearly offensive begins after a winter lull in fighting.
"The use of children and youths who don't know the difference between right and wrong in terrorist attacks is inhumane and against all Islamic principles," the president said.
The suicide bomber detonated a vest packed with explosives inside a bazaar in the Barmal district of Paktika province, 160 miles southeast of Kabul on the border with Pakistan. The blast killed four civilians and wounded 12, said Mokhlis Afghan, a spokesman for the provincial governor's office.
Among the dead — and the likely target of the attack — was Sher Nawaz, head of a new district council in the Shakeen area of Paktika province, Afghan said.
In the Taliban's announcement on its offensive, it suggested it would try to limit civilian casualties from its operations.
"Strict attention must be paid to the protection and safety of civilians during spring operations by working out a meticulous military plan," it said.
A United Nations report released earlier this year presented evidence that the Taliban was responsible for the majority of civilian deaths in Afghanistan in 2010, and Afghan and NATO officials have repeatedly accused the Taliban of breaking its own rules of engagement.
Also Sunday, a gunman opened fire on a checkpoint in the southwest province of Ghazni, killing two policemen and wounding a bystander during an hour-long battle, provincial police chief Zerawar Zahid said.
In a separate attack in Ghazni, militants detonated a bicycle rigged with explosives outside the provincial police headquarters complex, wounding 13 civilians, according to provincial officials.
The wounded included an 11-year-old girl and two young boys. They had light shrapnel wounds, said Dr. Mohammad Ismail Ibrahimzai, head of the Ghazni Provincial Hospital.
In the country's south, a suspected militant shot and killed an Afghan soldier at a checkpoint in Kandahar city, said deputy police chief Shershah Yousafzai.
In other violence in Kandahar, policemen receiving NATO-donated supplies including caps and protective eyewear drew guns and fought over the items, leaving one policeman dead and four wounded, said Arghandab district governor Shah Mohammad.
Associated Press writer Mirwais Khan in Kandahar contributed to this report.
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