Mar­ket at­tack kills at least 23

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - WORLD - By Rahim Faiez Rahim Faiez is an As­so­ci­ated Press writer.

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.

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