Suicide bomber kills 12 Afghan troops, civilians
kabul — A suicide bomber detonated a vehicle laden with explosives outside a bank in Afghanistan’s Helmand province Saturday, killing soldiers on their way to pick up their salaries and civilians, the latest incident in spreading violence in the country.
At least 20 people, including both army troops and civilians, were wounded in the strike that happened outside a branch of the New Kabul Bank in Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital of restive Helmand province.
The chief spokesman for the Defense Ministry, Dawlat Waziri, in Kabul said five of the 12 killed were soldiers. A Health Ministry official said seven civilians also perished in the attack.
No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, part of spiraling violence that has hit various parts of Afghanistan in recent harsh days of winter.
Helmand is the hub of Afghanistan’s illegal drug industry and part of the main bastion of Taliban insurgents. The United States has pledged to send several hundred extra troops in the spring, when violence usually increases.
The militants have unleashed several attacks in the province with their focus on Sangin district in the past few weeks, prompting airstrikes by the NATO-led Resolute Support mission forces.
The head of the provincial council, Karim Attal, said they had received reports of civilian deaths in at least two such air attacks in two different villages of Sangin on Thursday night.
“We had 22 civilians, including women, children, young and elderly people killed in the air attacks,” Haji Daud, a tribal chief from Sangin, said by phone.
“Thirteen of them were from one family and nine from another one, ” Daud said.