MAIDAN SHAR, Afghanistan — A suicide bomber has killed three people in an attack against an administrative building in restive eastern Paktia province.
The bombing occurred late Wednesday afternoon in the Sayed Karam district of Paktia, which borders with Pakistan, said District Chief Allah Gul Ahmadzai. The bomber was wearing an explosives vest and blew himself up just 2 yards (meters) from the front gate of the district headquarters. The bomb killed three civilians, including a 13-year-old boy, and blew out windows in the compound. There was no other damage.
In other violence, a mortar targeted a building where NATO and Afghan officials were inaugurating the country's largest police training facility in central Afghanistan.
The two attacks, which occurred at about the same time, were a stark reminder that insurgents can strike anywhere in this volatile country.
"The leadership of Ministry of Interior of Afghanistan condemns this inhumane and cowardly suicide attack. Such attacks will never weaken the determination of the Afghan National Police," said a statement from the ministry.
Meanwhile, in central Wardak province, a mortar landed next to a large building where Afghanistan's second vice president, Mohammed Karim Khalili and Interior Minister Bismullah Khan Mohammadi, along with NATO officials, celebrated the opening of the flagship center of a multibillion dollar NATO program to train Afghan national security forces ahead of a planned withdrawal of U.S.-led coalition forces at the end of 2014.
The deafening blast shook the building and more than 500 police recruits ducked for cover. Gunshots rang out after the attack. Bodyguards rushed Afghan and NATO officials into a hardened shelter before evacuating them on helicopters.
The area has seen increasing attacks by insurgents as the Taliban press a spring campaign against Afghan and NATO forces.
It was unclear if Khalili, who was born in Wardak, was the intended target of the attack, but the mortar seemed to have been aimed at the building where he had just finished delivering an address.
The $106 million facility currently houses 725 recruits but will expand to 3,000, making it the largest facility of its kind in the country. A mostly U.S. funded program has been spending about $10 billion a year in 2010 and 2011 alone to train, equip and build infrastructure for a range of Afghan forces, including police, soldiers and an air force. That program calls for increasing the number of Afghan police to 134,000 by October from the 81,509 of two years ago.
U.S. Maj. Gen. James Mallory told The Associated Press that NATO would be able to properly train and support an estimated 157,000 police officers before the coalition's planned withdrawal in 2014.
However, he acknowledged there would be long-term legacy costs that the international community would need to bear for the country as it struggles economically, especially as 86 percent of incoming recruits cannot read or write.
"We're dealing with a lost generation," Mallory said. He spoke just before the mortar attack.
Also Wednesday, in the southern province of Kandahar, the governor's office said NATO and Afghan troops killed 14 armed insurgents. Nine were killed after crossing the Pakistan border, while five were killed while allegedly trying to plant roadside bombs, the governor's office said.
A rocket attack in Kandahar city wounded four civilians in the Aymo Mina district, provincial police chief Gen. Abdul Raziq said.
Associated Press writer Mirwais Khan in Kandahar, Afghanistan contributed to this report.
Jon Gambrell can be reached at www.twitter.com/jongambrellAP.
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