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Taliban Web site claims Afghan blasts were 'message' to U.S. general

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35 killed in Kandahar blasts
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: "Successful operation ... was primarily a message" to Gen. McChrystal, site says
  • Thirty-five people were killed, dozens wounded in series of explosions
  • U.S., coalition forces have pledged to secure volatile Kandahar province
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Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) -- A series of deadly blasts in southern Afghanistan's volatile Kandahar province on Saturday was a message to the top U.S. general in Afghanistan, according to a posting Sunday on a Taliban Web site.

The "successful operation on Saturday ... was primarily a message to Gen. Stanley McChrystal's warning against their coming operation in Kandahar city," said the statement by Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi on the site.

McChrystal last week said coalition forces would launch a future operation to secure the province.

Five explosions in Kandahar on Saturday left 35 people dead and wounded 57 others, according to Zemeri Bashary, spokesman for Afghanistan's Interior Ministry. Officials said all but one of the blasts were suicide bombings.

The first explosion -- a suicide car bombing -- took place near the province's main prison. At the same time, a second suicide car bomb went off in front of the police headquarters, Bashary said.

The third attack was carried out by a suicide bomber on a motorcycle, and another targeted a bus station.

McChrystal has vowed that coalition forces "are absolutely going to secure Kandahar," as security efforts expand in the country's south.

"We already are doing a lot of security operations in Kandahar, but it's our intent -- under President [Hamid] Karzai -- to make an even greater effort there," he told reporters Tuesday.

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McChrystal indicated a military operation could begin in the province as early as this summer, but both McChrystal and Mark Sedwill, the NATO senior civilian representative to the country, cautioned that much political groundwork lay ahead for NATO-led coalition troops before an offensive can begin. Just as in the recent Marjah operation, they said, the goal is to gain the support of the Afghan people.

The push to secure Kandahar from what McChrystal calls a "menacing Taliban presence" is part of a larger counterinsurgency effort in southern Afghanistan. The effort started last month in Marjah in southern Helmand province.

"The Mujahedeen's successful operation in the heart of Kandahar city was a message to Stanley McChrystal and a reaction to the U.S. coming operation in Kandahar province," said the Taliban Web site. "The Mujahedeen of the Islamic Emirate are fully prepared and ready to fight the Americans, NATO and their allies, no matter whichever part of Afghanistan they may be [in]."

Saturday's fatalities included 13 police officers and 22 civilians, including six women and three children. Among the wounded were 40 civilians and 17 police officers, Bashary said. The Taliban denied killing any civilians in the Web site statement.

CNN's Matiullah Mati contributed to this report.

 
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