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Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-06-11

A number of blasts in flashpoints across the south and east of the country have killed at least 20 people, officials said Saturday. In the worst attack, a mine blew up after it was hit by a vehicle killing 15, including four women and eight children.

AFP - A series of bombs and explosions killed 20 people in Afghanistan's southern and eastern flashpoints on Saturday, among them at least eight children and four women, government officials said.

In the deadliest attack, a vehicle hit a mine in Arghandab district of the southern province of Kandahar, one of the main battlegrounds in the nearly 10-year Taliban-led insurgency against the Kabul government and NATO troops.

"Today at 10:00 am, 15 civilians were killed, including eight children, four women and three men," the ministry said.

One woman was also wounded in the explosion, it added.

Mines and crudely made bombs planted on the side of the road are trademark tactics of the Taliban and other Islamist insurgents fighting to bring down the Western-backed government and evict US-led foreign troops.

Intended to target Afghan and NATO security forces, the bombs frequently kill and maim civilians, by the far the most numerous victims in the war.

Map of Afghanistan

The United Nations said last year was the deadliest for civilians in nearly a decade of conflict in Afghanistan, with 2,777 reported dead, largely at the hands of insurgents but also as a result of NATO military operations.

Kandahar is the birthplace of the Taliban, ousted from power by the 2001 US-led invasion but which regrouped to fight an increasingly deadly insurgency.

Attacks also hit eastern Afghanistan, which like the south has been a main flashpoint for violence particularly in areas bordering Pakistan, where Afghan Taliban and other militants have carved out safe havens.

The interior ministry said six civilians, including a woman and two children, were wounded by mortar bombs fired at a district police headquarters in the eastern province of Kunar.

In the eastern province of Khost, a suicide bomber on Saturday killed three people including the commander of a provincial Afghan police rapid reaction force and wounded 12 others, officials said.

The attacker blew himself up in front of the police unit's base, Khost deputy police chief Mohammad Yahqoob Mandozai told AFP.

"The commander of the the unit, Colonel Zaher ... has been killed", Mandozai said. "The suicide attacker who was waiting outside the base detonated himself as the vehicle carrying the police commander exited the base."

The interior ministry said two policemen -- including Zaher -- and a civilian were killed in the attack.

Taliban insurgents were not immediately reachable for comment.

Khost, a volatile province in eastern Afghanistan, borders the Pakistani tribal area of Waziristan, where the Taliban are known to have rear bases and US officials are putting pressure on Pakistan to launch a military operation.

The province is a stronghold of the Haqqani network, which targets NATO forces in eastern Afghanistan, and other militant groups.

Two policemen were killed and nine wounded when two successive blasts hit the eastern province of Laghman, also in the border with Pakistan.

The interior ministry said the first explosion occurred in the provincial capital Mehtar Lam, which caused no casualties, followed by a second explosion when police arrived at the scene, causing the fatalities.

There are around 130,000 US-led international troops fighting the near decade-long Taliban insurgency.

A limited withdrawal of foreign troops is expected to began in July, ahead of a planned transition of responsibility to Afghan security forces due to be completed by end of 2014.

The New York Times has reported that the US military is sending 80 counter-intelligence agents to help stem the threat of Taliban infiltration in the Afghan security forces, following a series of shootings of NATO soldiers.

Date created : 2011-06-11


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