KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AFP) -A suicide bomber tried to kill the governor of a volatile southern Afghan province by blowing up an explosives-filled vehicle as the official was going to work, officials said.
A man who said he was a spokesman for loyalists of the Taliban government ousted in 2001 claimed responsibility for the attack on behalf of the hardliners, who are waging an insurgency.
The attacker detonated the explosives as Helmand governor Sher Mohammad left his vehicle to enter his office in the provincial capital Lashkar Gah, his spokesman Mohammad Wali said on Monday.
The governor was not hurt. The bomber survived but lost both his arms and both his legs, Wali said.
Intelligence officers were trying to get as much information as possible from the man "before he dies," including his nationality, Wali said.
"He”s an elderly man with a shaved face and big moustache," Wali said.
Interior ministry spokesman Yousuf Stanizai said the bomber was a foreign national. "He has been badly injured and is in coma at the hospital," Stanizai said in the capital Kabul.
But purported Taliban spokesman Yousf Ahmadi telephoned AFP and said the attacker was an Afghan national from Helmand.
"The suicide attack was carried out by one of our mujahedin (holy warriors). His name was Salahuddin and he was 55 years old," he said from an unknown location.
He said the attack was aimed at US military forces based near the governor”s office.
Wali said the governor had been due Monday to meet US-led forces and local security agencies to discuss security in the troubled province.
Helmand is one of several southern provinces that sees regular attacks as part of an insurgency against the government being waged mainly by the Taliban and their supporters.
This year has been the worst for insurgency-linked violence since the fall of the Taliban, with about 1,400 people killed — most of them militants.