Market attack kills at least 23
KABUL — A car bombing and mortar shells fired at a busy market in southern Afghanistan’s Helmand province on Monday killed 23 people, including children, a statement from a provincial governor’s office said.
Both the Taliban and the Afghan military blamed each other for the attack in Sangin district. Details of the attack could not be independently confirmed as the area, which is under Taliban control, is inaccessible to reporters.
A Taliban spokesman, Qari Yusouf Ahmadi, denied the insurgents were involved in the bombing. The Taliban claimed the military fired mortars into the market, while the military said a car bomb and mortar shells fired by the insurgents targeted the civilians.
The army also said there was no military activity in the area on Monday and that two Taliban fighters were also killed when the car bomb detonated at the marketplace.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani condemned the “brutal and inhumane act.”
“The government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan once again calls on the Taliban to refrain from war and violence and to accept the will of the Afghan people, which is the end of the war and the start of negotiations,” Ghani’s statement said.
Violence has continued unabated in Afghanistan, even though talks between the Taliban and Kabul representatives could start as early next month.
One of the obstacles to the start of the negotiations has been the exchange of prisoners, envisaged under a deal the Taliban signed with the U.S. at the end of February. That accord — and the AfghanTaliban talks that were meant to follow — are seen as Afghanistan’s best chance for peace and an opportunity for U.S. and NATO troops to leave.