President Hamid Karzai condemned the "enemies of Afghanistan" on Wednesday after roadside bombs killed nine people, including five children, as insurgents fight intensified NATO-led operations in the south.
Meanwhile, NATO and Afghan forces reported killing 22 militants — including two "shadow" governors of northern provinces.
In the roadside bombings Tuesday night in Kandahar city, the Interior Ministry said nine people were killed and 30 injured, including many police officers. The blasts targeted a police vehicle and ripped through an intersection — a day after four officers died in coordinated bombings that were also aimed at police.
Karzai strongly condemned the latest attack.
"The enemies of Afghanistan, far from following Islamic principles, are targeting civilians including children," a statement from his office said.
Control of Kandahar, the Taliban movement's birthplace, is seen as key to reversing Taliban momentum in the war. Afghan and NATO forces are engaged in a major operation there, dubbed Dragon Strike, to keep insurgents from staging attacks inside the city. In response, Taliban have intensified a campaign targeting police and local officials.
On Monday, Noor Ahman, deputy mayor in Kandahar, was also killed in an insurgent attack, and later in the day, Habibullah Aghonzada, a former district chief in Arghistan, was gunned down by assailants as he prayed at a packed mosque.
NATO described the two as "dedicated public servants who sought to improve the lives of their fellow countrymen."
The Taliban said Tuesday the NATO-led operation was doomed to fail.
"America is operating in the districts of Kandahar, but the result will be that they will walk out with blood-filled, empty hands," Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef said. "They could not achieve victory in nearly a decade ... this shows they never will."
Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said the operation was scattering insurgents from the restive region.
"Dragon Strike is continuing to put the pressure on these guys. Those who have remained and dug in and who are determined to fight are feeling enormous pressure ... The Taliban is clearly feeling it."
The NATO coalition is also fighting an uphill battle to win the allegiance of people in Kandahar.
"When only the Taliban were ruling our land there was peace and tranquility. Since the Americans have set foot on our land, we don't have work and our health is no better," said Naseebullah Ghamjam, a 38-year-old laborer. "All we have seen is that Americans have constructed exceptionally massive compounds for themselves."
Resident Azizullah Saiyal, 29, said citizens have little trust in the international community or Afghan government officials.
"We hear that millions and billions of dollars are coming in our country, but where does all of the money go?" he asked. "I believe these years of war and loss of innocent lives makes it obvious that war can never bring in peace. We should start looking for alternatives now."
In southwestern Nimroz province, meanwhile, police said they intercepted a shipping container full of grenades and gunpowder, presumably destined for insurgent forces.
The 40-foot-long container 1,339 boxes filled with grenades, and 250 kilograms (550 pounds) of gunpowder, along with fuses and electrical cords, according to Mohammad Musa Rasouli, the deputy provincial police chief.
The weapons appeared to have been made in China and were scheduled to ship to a private company in Afghanistan, Rasouli said, though he declined to give the name of the receiving company.
One suspect has been arrested and others from the company are being investigated, he said.
The military alliance also announced an insurgent involved in the kidnapping of a New York Times reporter was captured in northern Afghanistan. The unidentified militant was apprehended by Afghan and coalition security forces in Takhar province, a statement said Tuesday.
The insurgent was linked to senior Taliban and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan leaders in northern Afghanistan and Pakistan, NATO said. He "terrorized the local populace," and targeted police and local officials in attacks, it said.
Journalist Stephen Farrell and translator and reporter Sultan Munadi were taken hostage in September 2009 when they went to cover a NATO airstrike of two hijacked fuel tankers that killed scores of Afghan civilians. British commandos rescued Farrell in a raid, but Munadi and a British commando were killed in the operation.
In other violence, a powerful roadside bomb destroyed a civilian vehicle Wednesday, killing three fruit farmers in southeastern Afghanistan. The blast occurred as the farmers were taking their produce to market, said Mohammad Jan Rasoulyar, spokesman for Zabul province's governor.
The nine-year war has inflicted a mounting toll on Afghan civilians. The United Nations says insurgents are responsible for most civilian deaths and injuries. However, noncombatants are also killed in NATO military operations.
Separately, a NATO airstrike killed Qari Ziauddin, identified as the Taliban's "shadow" governor of Faryab province, and four other insurgents Tuesday, the alliance said.
In neighboring Badghis province, a helicopter-borne raid by a joint force led to a gunbattle that killed Mohammad Ismail Quarisaderdin — another Taliban leader described as a shadow governor, according to the Afghan intelligence service. Five other Taliban commanders also died in the operation, it said.
The Afghan Defense Ministry reported that NATO-Afghan operations resulted in the deaths of 11 other militants in the past 24 hours. Six insurgents died in a raid in Kandahar's Zhari district, four militants were killed in Kunar province's Ghazi Abad district, and one died in Andar district in eastern Ghazni province.
A major shipment of drugs was also intercepted by a combined force after a highway gunbattle in Kandahar that killed an unspecified number of "insurgents," NATO said. Inside the targeted vehicle, 1,675 pounds (760 kilograms) of processed heroin, 550 pounds (250 kilograms) of hashish, and 220 pounds (100 kilograms) of wet opium were found, it said.