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At least 10 people killed in Afghanistan suicide bombing

A suicide bomber targeted a vehicle carrying court employees in Kabul during morning rush hour yesterday, killing several people PICTURE: Massoud Hossaini/AP
By Lynne O'Donnell and Rahim Faiez, in Kabul

A SUICIDE bomber has targeted a vehicle carrying court employees in Kabul, killing 10 people.

The attack was confirmed as the Afghan Taliban named a new leader, after Mullah Akhtar Mansour was killed in a US drone strike last week.

Najib Danish, the Afghan interior ministry's deputy spokesman, said the bomber, who was on foot, detonated his explosives vest as he walked by the vehicle in the Afghan capital.

He said the explosion, which took place during the morning rush hour in the western part of the city, also wounded four people. The casualties include court workers and civilians.

Within an hour of the assault, the Taliban, which often targets government employees in their war against the state, claimed the bombing. The claim came from Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, in an email sent to the media.

The last major attack in Kabul was on April 19, when a massive bomb killed 64 people and wounded hundreds.

The insurgent group said its new leader is Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, one of Mansour's two deputies. It said he was chosen at a meeting of Taliban leaders believed to have been held in Pakistan.

Mansour was killed in Pakistan on Saturday when his vehicle was struck by a US drone. It is believed to be the first time a Taliban leader was killed in such a way inside Pakistani territory.

Pakistani authorities are believed to have given shelter and support to some Taliban leaders over the Afghan border. The insurgents have been fighting to overthrow the Kabul government since 2001 when their own Islamist regime was overthrown by the US invasion.

The US and Afghan governments said Mansour had been an obstacle to a peace process that had ground to a halt when he refused to participate in talks earlier this year. Instead, he intensified the war in Afghanistan, now in its 15th year.

Mansour had led the Taliban since last summer when the death of the movement's founder, Mullah Mohammad Omar became public.

Mansour ran the movement in Omar's name for more than two years. The revelation of Omar's death and Mansour's deception led to widespread mistrust, with some senior leaders leaving the group to set up their own factions.

Senior Taliban figures have said his death could strengthen the movement as he was a divisive figure.

Akhundzada is a religious scholar known for issuing public statements justifying the existence of the extremist Taliban and the war against the Afghan government.

His views are regarded as hawkish, and he could be expected to continue in the aggressive footsteps of Mansour.

The Taliban said two new deputies had also been appointed - both of whom had earlier been thought to be the main contenders for the top job. They are Sirajuddin Haqqani, who was also one of Mansour's deputies, and the son of Omar, Mullah Yaqoub.

The Taliban statement called on all Muslims to mourn Mansour for three days. It also called for unity and obedience to the new leader.

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