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Taliban suicide bomber targeting Afghan police kills seven

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LASHKAR GAH, Afghanistan (Reuters) - A suicide bomber targeting Afghan policemen and soldiers collecting their pay killed at least seven people and wounded more than 40 on Wednesday, officials said.

The suicide attacker with a car bomb struck in Lashkar Gah, capital of the southern province of Helmand, provincial police chief Abdul Ghafar Safai said.

Omar Zwak, spokesman for Helmand’s governor, put the toll at seven dead. The Taliban, seeking to restore Islamic rule after their 2001 ouster, claimed responsibility.

Two women, two soldiers and a child were killed in the blast, a doctor at a nearby hospital told Reuters.

Militants had previously attacked security forces gathered to collect their pay at a bank in Lashkar Gah in June.

That prompted officials to move a bank branch into the city’s police headquarters to improve security.

“In the past, the slave enemy received their pay from banks but after several attacks they began taking their pay inside the headquarters that we have now attacked,” local Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi told Reuters.

He said the attack killed 39 soldiers and police, including senior commanders, a claim rejected by officials.

Reporting by Mohammad Stanekzai, Writing by Josh Smith; Editing by Nick Macfie