Taliban militants shot dead the most high-profile female police officer in Afghanistan Sunday and killed four more policemen in other attacks.
The new violence, part of a Taliban-led insurgency sweeping Afghanistan, came as security officials said they had killed about 30 rebels in various operations, although there were allegations that civilians were among the dead.
Malalai Kakar, the most senior policewoman in the southern city of Kandahar and a mother of six, was shot dead by gunmen who had been waiting outside her home, government officials said.
Her teenage son, who was driving her to work, was badly hurt.
"Malalai Kakar died in front of her house. Her son was wounded," Kandahar province government spokesman Zalmay Ayoobi said.
A doctor in the city's main hospital said Kakar, aged around 40, was shot in the head. "She died on the spot and her son was badly injured," he said on condition of anonymity.
A spokesman for the extremist Taliban movement said the assassins were from his group.
"We killed Malalai Kakar," spokesman Yousuf Ahmadi said. "She was our target and we successfully eliminated our target."
President Hamid Karzai said in a statement the killing was an "act of cowardice" by Afghanistan's "enemies."
The European Union in Afghanistan said Kakar had been an example to others in her country and her murder was "particularly abhorrent."
Kakar was regularly profiled in international media and was known for her courage in one of Afghanistan's most conservative provinces.
She headed a team of at least 10 women police officers and had reportedly received numerous death threats.
Kandahar is the birthplace of the extremist Taliban, who rose to take control of government in 1996 before being removed in a U.S.-led invasion in 2001.
In another attack on police, a suicide bomber on a motorbike blew himself up near two police vehicles in the border town of Spin Boldak near Kandahar, police said.
Three policemen and three civilians were killed, and 17 people wounded, provincial police chief Matiullah Khan Qate said.
Ahmadi, the Taliban spokesman, confirmed that his militia was involved.
In the eastern province of Paktika meanwhile, a police vehicle hit a roadside bomb and one policeman was killed and one wounded, provincial police said. Taliban said they were responsible.
Police officers are among the Taliban's main targets, with around 750 killed in the past six months, according to the interior ministry.
In other violence, a government official said police had ambushed and killed 17 Taliban insurgents in Helmand province on Saturday.
The U.S.-led coalition said meanwhile it killed six militants in eastern Afghanistan the same day.
And an Afghan army colonel said 10 Taliban were killed in a battle in the southwestern province of Farah Sunday.
The coalition said it was investigating allegations it killed three civilians in a pre-dawn raid on a home in the eastern province of Kunar, although it believed the dead were al-Qaida operatives.
"Initial reports show no civilian or coalition casualties," it said in a statement, adding, "The incident is still under investigation."© Wire reports