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Teen suicide bomber attacks Afghan police

KABUL, Afghanistan - A teenage suicide bomber slipped inside police headquarters in Kandahar in southern Afghanistan on Wednesday, detonating his cache of explosives and wounding one officer, the chief of the headquarters said.

No one but the attacker was killed by the blast, which occurred shortly after noon, Kandahar provincial police chief Gen. Abdul Razaq said.

According to Razaq's account, a bomber believed to be 14 or 15 years old entered the station by claiming he was carrying a letter of complaint, which he told guards he was trying to deliver to police authorities.

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The teenager managed to pass through checkpoints without the explosives being found, and was inside the police compound when an Afghan border policeman shouted at him, asking where he was headed. He immediately detonated the explosives.

Razaq's office was partially destroyed and the windows of his office were shattered.

The one-time Taliban stronghold of Kandahar has been particularly hard-hit by violence as insurgents seek to destabilize the local government. Three bombings in one day last week killed 13 people in the city.

The attack on the Afghan police comes amid the ongoing transition of security duties in the nation from NATO and U.S. troops to Afghanistan's own forces.

While the Afghan police are regularly targeted by insurgents in such attacks, the force has been plagued by corruption, attrition and a relative lack of discipline since the U.S.-led invasion toppled the Taliban government in 2001.

A Wednesday report in the Wall Street Journal highlights, in particular, the challenges faced by U.S. troops working with the Afghan Army in the Paktika province, where the police seem to be working both against and with the Taliban, depending on who's asking.

"They smile to our face when we're here, giving them money and building them buildings," Army Capt. Cory Brown, a U.S. officer helping the coordinated U.S.-Afghan effort in the area tells the Journal. "But they've given insurgents money, food and even rides in Afghan police cars."

One of the biggest problems in Paktika, says the Journal, is that the Afghan police are largely ethnic Tajiks and other tribes who don't speak the local language.

It is a problem mirrored in other parts of Afghanistan, and where the local population doesn't trust the police - who are meant to stay in the area and enforce security long after U.S. and even Afghan troops move on - they are likely to instead support local Taliban leaders.

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