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Suicide bomb kills Afghan governor

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(CNN) -- A suicide bomber killed the governor of Afghanistan's southeastern Paktia province Sunday afternoon as he was leaving his office, an Interior Ministry spokesman said.

Gov. Abdul Hakim Taniwal's bodyguard and his nephew were also killed when the suicide bomber detonated explosives strapped to his body while standing next to the governor's car.

The blast also wounded three police officers near Taniwal's office in Gardez, the provincial capital, the spokesman said.

After the attack, the U.S. military warned that a cell of suicide bombers in the capital Kabul were targeting coalition troops.

"We know that there is a cell here in Kabul, at least one, whose primary mission is to seek out coalition or international troops and hit them with suicide bombs," military spokesman Col. Tom Collins said at a news conference.

Collins didn't elaborate except to say the cell "is alive and working here in Kabul, and remains very much a threat."

Taniwal's death follows a dramatic rise in Taliban-led violence in Afghanistan this year, including suicide bombings.

On Friday, a bomber in a car rammed into a U.S. military convoy near the U.S. Embassy, killing 11 civilians and two soldiers in one of the deadliest suicide attacks since the fall of the hardline Islamic regime in late 2001. (Full story)

A purported Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for Friday's attack. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the assassination of the Paktia governor.

Operation Medusa

NATO-led troops said Sunday they have killed 94 insurgents in southern Afghanistan during 24 hours of fighting.

The clashes came as Operation Medusa, a NATO offensive against Taliban rebels in Kandahar province, entered its eighth day. The operation has intensified this weekend, as coalition troops have killed more than 130 suspected insurgents since late Friday, the military said.

The operation is being spearheaded by Canadian International Security Assistance Force troops backed by Afghan soldiers.

Sunday's fighting comes a day after more than 40 insurgents and two coalition soldiers were killed in action.

The nationalities of the soldiers -- both members of Combined Joint Task Force Phoenix -- were not released. CJTF-Phoenix is primarily made up of U.S. military personnel.

One of the soldiers killed was part of an embedded training team working with Afghan soldiers in support of Operation Medusa in Panjwayi, NATO said.

The other coalition soldier -- also part of an embedded training team -- was killed while supporting Afghan soldiers in the southeastern Zabul province.

Appearing on "Fox News Sunday," U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that achieving stability in Afghanistan was going to take a long time, but that the resurgent Taliban forces there were "taking a beating."

The Taliban "came back somewhat more organized and somewhat more capable than people would've expected," she said.

"I think they also believed that when the United States forces moved out and NATO moved in, that it would be easier to make advances," Rice said. "And they're learning a very brutal lesson, as they encounter NATO forces that are destroying them in very large numbers."

More than 330 insurgents and at least five Canadian soldiers have been killed in Medusa so far, according to NATO. Statements from the Taliban and the Afghan government say the figure is lower.

There are about 19,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan, of which about 1,000 are American. About 6,000 of the NATO troops are in the south. NATO forces in the south include British, Canadian, Dutch and American troops.

In addition to the NATO troops, the United States has another 20,000 troops under American command. Medusa is designed to oust the insurgency in certain districts "so that displaced residents can return to their homes, allowing much-needed reconstruction and development projects to take place in relative stability," NATO said.

The latest fighting comes as NATO members meeting in Poland agreed that more troops were needed in Afghanistan

On Friday, NATO's top commander called on alliance members meeting in Poland to commit 2,000 more troops to Afghanistan to help quell the insurgency, which has escalated beyond expectations when NATO took command of the volatile south from a U.S.-led coalition last month.

Journalist Tom Coghlan contributed to this story.

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