Reuters, July 29, 2011

Afghanistan bombs kill 23 civilians on bus and tractor

Helmand explosions come a day after 12 children were killed in neighbouring Uruzgan province

Roadside mines have killed 23 civilians in southern Afghanistan, with a minibus and a tractor struck separately by explosives in Helmand province, according to officials.

The minibus was travelling from Nahr-e-Saraj district to the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah, when it hit a mine and all 19 people inside were killed, said Kamaluddin Shirzai, deputy police chief for Helmand.

When security forces arrived at the scene they were attacked by Taliban insurgents, said Hekmatullah Akmal, a police commander.

Damaged vehicles are seen inside the government compound in Uruzgan province July 28, 2011
Damaged vehicles are seen inside the government compound in Uruzgan province July 28, 2011. (Photo: Reuters/Stringer)

He said it appeared at least 17 people had been killed but the damage from the blast made it difficult to determine how many people had been on the bus.

In Garmsir district, south of Lashkar Gah, a tractor hit a roadside bomb, killing four civilians, officials said.

It has been the deadliest six months for civilians in Afghanistan since the war began nearly a decade ago, according to the UN mission in the country.

Civilian deaths between January and June were up 15% compared with the first half of 2010 owing to roadside and suicide bombings, increased ground fighting and more deaths from air strikes.

The minibus and tractor deaths in Helmand came a day after at least 17 civilians were killed, including 12 children aged between four and 13, when suicide bombers targeted government buildings in neighbouring Uruzgan province. Two policemen were also killed.

Helmand has been the site of some of the most vicious fighting of the war. Far more foreign troops have died there than in any other province. There are still several Helmand districts dominated by the Taliban.

Afghan security forces took over security control this month for Lashkar Gah, the most contentious of the first seven areas for which foreign troops handed over responsibility. The gradual transition of security control to Afghan forces is due to be completed by the end of 2014.

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