"Afghanistan announced a ban on news coverage of Taliban strikes on Monday, saying such coverage only emboldened the Islamist militants, whose latest strikes killed six in the southern city of Kandahar," Reuters reports.


Journalists will only be allowed to cover the aftermath of Taliban attacks with permission from the National Directorate of Security (NDS) spy agency, the agency said. It threatened to detain journalists who film attacks without permission and confiscate their equipment.

"Live coverage does not benefit the government, but benefits the enemies of Afghanistan," NDS spokesman Saeed Ansari said. The agency summoned a group of reporters to announce the ban.

No filming will be permitted while attacks are under way, and live broadcasts will be banned even from a distance, Ansari said.

The move was denounced by Afghan journalism and rights groups, which said it would deprive the public of vital information about the security situation in the country.

The wire service adds that the "government imposed a similar ban for a single day last year as an extraordinary measure during a presidential election, but has never before issued a permanent, blanket ban."

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AFP) – Twin car bombs and multiple other attacks killed four NATO soldiers and 10 Afghans Monday, taking foreign troop deaths this year well above the level for the first two months of 2009.

The NATO deaths in southern and western Afghanistan mean 105 foreign soldiers have been killed in the country this year -- twice the number in the same period last year.

A string of bomb blasts struck the south within 24 hours in an increase in Taliban-linked violence more than two weeks after thousands of US-led troops launched a major offensive in Helmand province.

The attacks highlighted the threat posed by the militia across much of the nation and emphasised the challenge faced by US and NATO troops taking part in a military "surge" aimed at ending the eight-year war.

On Monday morning, a suicide bomber rammed his car into a NATO convoy crossing a bridge in Kandahar province, which neighbours Helmand, sending an armoured vehicle plummeting into the river below, an AFP reporter said.

The Afghan interior ministry said the attack killed "four of our innocent civilian compatriots".

Sergeant Jeff Loftin, a spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), said one foreign soldier was killed and "a few" injured but did not disclose their nationalities.

Hours later, a station wagon packed with explosives blew up outside the provincial police headquarters in Kandahar city -- the spiritual capital of the Taliban -- killing one person and wounding 16 others, police said.

"In the remote-controlled car bomb explosion... one civilian working for the police headquarters was killed," said deputy provincial police chief Fazel Mohammad Shairzad.

Of the 16 wounded, nine were policemen, he added.

Taliban spokesman Yousuf Ahmadi told AFP by telephone from an undisclosed location that his organisation was responsible for both bombings.

ISAF later released a statement reporting three more deaths on Monday -- two in an attack in the west and one in a shooting in the south. The force gave no further details, and did not identify the nationalities of the dead.

The deaths bring to 105 the number of foreign soldiers who have died in Afghanistan so far this year, according to an AFP count based on a tally kept by the independent website icasualties.org.

Last year was the deadliest since the war began, with 519 foreign troop deaths.

Another five Afghan civilians were killed by roadside bombs in Helmand on Monday, the interior ministry said.

One mine exploded under a car near the provincial capital Lashkar Gah, killing three civilians, and two others died in a similar attack in Gereshk district, it said in a statement.

On Sunday, a bomb planted by the Taliban killed 11 civilians including women and children in Helmand, where 15,000 troops have been waging a massive anti-Taliban offensive. Overall, more than 120,000 foreign troops are currently in Afghanistan.

Since February 13, US, NATO and Afghan troops have been fighting to drive the Taliban from the Marjah and Nad Ali areas of Helmand. Afghan authorities say they are now in control, having hoisted the national flag last week.

Operation Mushtarak ("Together") is aimed at driving the Taliban from their strongholds and is part of Washington's strategy to end the war.

Although commanders say the fighting is now winding down and Kandahar is next on the list, authorities have been reluctant to return thousands of displaced villagers because of innumerable mines left by the Taliban.

The Taliban, their affiliated networks and loyalists have focused their fight to bring down the Western-backed Afghan government on the south but are said to have a significant presence across virtually the entire country.

Foreign troop numbers in Afghanistan are set to rise to 150,000 by August as part of the war strategy adopted by US President Barack Obama and key allies.

(with AFP report)