Burqa-clad suicide bomber kills provincial Afghan police chief

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AFP) - A suicide bomber wearing a burqa blew himself up in the Afghan capital Kabul, killing an influential provincial police chief, officials said Thursday.

The Taleban immediately claimed responsibility for the death of Matiullah Khan, head of police in central Uruzgan province, where he had worked closely with NATO troops during their combat mission.

Afghanistan's interior ministry said in a statement that a "terrorist clad in a burqa" had killed Khan and strongly condemned the murder.

General Farid Afzali, head of the criminal police in Kabul, confirmed to AFP the attack, which took place late on Wednesday.

"Last night, Matiullah Khan was targeted by a suicide attack in Kabul and killed," said Dost Mohammad, a spokesman for the governor of Uruzgan.

It was not immediately clear why Khan was in Kabul, more than 300 kilometres (miles) from his province.

Taleban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi claimed responsibility for the killing, which comes as Afghanistan prepares to celebrate Persian New Year called Nowruz.

Taleban insurgents have been waging a deadly campaign in Afghanistan since they were overthrown from power 14 years ago.

They have stepped up suicide attacks on government targets following an Afghan army offensive which began in southern Helmand province two months ago, but are under pressure to enter peace talks.

The offensive in Helmand is seen as a key test of the ability of Afghanistan's military to curtail the insurgency following the end of the US-led NATO mission in late December.