Reuters, December 16, 2010

Roadside bomb kills 14 civilians in Afghan west

Some 1,270 civilians were killed in the first six months of this year, U.N. figures show, up 21 percent from the start of 2009

KABUL - A roadside bomb killed 14 civilians and injured four when it ripped through a minibus in western Afghanistan on Thursday, a government official said, the latest casualties of escalating violence in a once-peaceful area.

Victim of blast on 15 December 2010 in Kandahar
Afghans look at the face of a blast victim, unseen, who was killed at a blast in Kandahar south of Kabul, Afghanistan on Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2010. 15 people have been killed in a chain of blasts. (Photo: AP)

The blast came days after a similar homemade bomb in the south of the country killed 15 people, and six Afghan soldiers died in separate NATO air strikes that were meant to target insurgents.

Violence in Afghanistan is at its worst since the Taliban were overthrown in late 2001, with record casualties on all sides of the conflict, and those caught in between.

Ordinary Afghans have borne the brunt of ramped up fighting. Some 1,270 civilians were killed in the first six months of this year, U.N. figures show, up 21 percent from the start of 2009.

In the latest incident, Shafiq Behroozyan, a spokesman for the governor of Herat province, said a roadside bomb hit a minibus carrying civilian passengers in the Kesh-e Kohna district of Herat province near the border with Turkmenistan on Thursday.

"The military forces have reached the site and they say that 14 people have been killed and 4 wounded," Behroozyan said by telephone from Herat.

The victims may have been part of an extended family heading for a pre-engagement party, he added.

On Wednesday, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) warned of worsening violence in Afghanistan in 2011 and said reaching Afghans who needed help was harder now than it had been at any time in the past 30 years.

A military focus on traditional insurgent strongholds in the south and east of Afghanistan has helped militants to take root in the north and west.

Success in handing security over to Afghan forces in parts of the country is directly linked to U.S. President Barack Obama's plan to start withdrawing troops from July 2011.

NATO agreed at a high-profile summit in Lisbon earlier this year that it would aim for a 2014 handover of security responsibility to Afghan forces.

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