Sui­cide bomber kills 12 Afghan troops, civil­ians

The Washington Post Sunday - - POLITICS & THE NATION - BY SAYED SALAHUD­DIN for­eign@wash­

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.

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