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Afghanistan

Bomb blast hits Afghanistan on security handover day

A bomb blast in the Afghan capital, Kabul, has marked the start of the day that sees the formal handover of security from NATO to Afghan forces. It is the fourth attack in the capital in recent weeks.

At least three people died and up to 30 were wounded in a bomb blast on Tuesday morning. Kabul deputy police chief Mohammad Daoud Amin said the attack happened in the Pul-e-Surkh area of the western part of the city.

General Mohammad Zahir, chief of the Kabul Criminal Investigation Division, said three people were killed by the bomb and another 30 were wounded - including six bodyguards. "The roadside bomb targeted the Mohaqiq convoy, but he safely passed. One of his vehicles was damaged," Zahir said.

Mohammed Mohaqiq is a prominent ethnic Hazara lawmaker and a former Cabinet member. The leader of the People's Islamic Unity Party of Afghanistan, he is a member of the National Front, which represents members of the former Northern Alliance which fought the Taliban.

NATO handover day

The International Security Assistance Force formally handed over control of the last 95 districts to Afghan forces at a ceremony attended by President Hamid Karzai and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at a military academy outside Kabul on Tuesday.

NATO relinquishes control

"Our security and defense forces will now be in the lead," Karzai said. "From here, all security responsibility and all security leadership will be taken by our brave forces. When people see security has been transferred to Afghans, they support the army and police more than before."

The transfer includes security control of districts in Kandahar province - the birthplace of the Taliban - and in Nangarhar, Khost and Paktika, on the Pakistan border where insurgents have been particularly active.

Rasmussen said that by taking the lead in security on Tuesday, Afghan forces were completing a five-stage transition process that began in March 2011. "They are doing so with remarkable resolve," he said. "Ten years ago, there were no Afghan national security forces... now you have 350,000 Afghan troops and police, a formidable force."

"We will continue to help Afghan troops in operations if needed, but we will no longer plan, execute or lead those operations, and by the end of 2014 our combat mission will be completed," Rasmussen said.

jm/msh (AP, AFP)

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