By Mamoon Durrani
A series of roadside bombs in restive southern Afghanistan on Wednesday killed a total of 17 people, among them women and children, in a bloody week for civilians.
The attacks came the day the head of the Afghan election commission said Taliban and other insurgents could stand as candidates in the next presidential ballot in April 2014.
Last Friday a suicide bomber wearing a police uniform killed 42 people, including five children, at a mosque in northern Faryab province after prayers for the festival of Eid-ul-Adha, an attack blamed on the Taliban.
Wednesday's bloodshed began when a roadside bomb tore through a vehicle in Musa Qala district of Helmand province at around 9:00 am (0430 GMT). Seven women and three children were killed, according to provincial spokesman Farid Ahmad Farhang.
Hours later, a second device destroyed a civilian motorcycle, killing a man and wounding a woman and three children -- all members of the same family -- Farhang said.
An Afghan firefighter cleans bloodstains from the scene of a bomb blast in Lashkar Gah, Helmand province south of Kabul, Afghanistan, on February 9, 2012. Two Afghan policemen were killed and one more was wounded by the blast, police officials said. (Photo: Abdul Khaleq/AP)
A statement from the Helmand governor's office confirmed the toll and blamed the "enemies of Afghanistan", a term used to refer to Taliban insurgents waging an 11-year war against the Kabul government and its NATO supporters.
Later another blast in Maruf district of neighbouring Kandahar province killed six civilians.
"A roadside bomb this afternoon blew up a civilian minivan in Maruf district that killed six people, including women and children." said provincial spokesman Jawed Ahmad Faisal.
A provincial police spokesman confirmed the incident without giving details.
Roadside bombs, also known as improvised explosive devices (IEDs), are the deadliest insurgent weapon both for the military fighting the Taliban and civilians.
The crude devices, often built from old ammunition, are planted to target NATO and Afghan troops but they also kill civilians using the same roads.
The United Nations says 1,145 civilians were killed in the war in the first six months of this year, blaming 80 percent of the deaths on insurgents, with more than half caused by roadside bombs.
Last year a record 3,021 civilians died in the war, the UN has said, and this year around 30 percent of casualties have been women and children. Most of them were victims of roadside bombs.
On October 19 a bomb ripped through a minibus carrying guests to a wedding in the northern province of Balkh, killing 19 people.
A day after the Balkh blast, the UN urged the Taliban leadership to enforce their ban on IEDs, announced in 1998 by the militants' leader Mullah Omar.
Foreign combat troops are due to withdraw by the end of 2014 and there are fears that the Taliban will extend their activities across wider swathes of the country against ill-prepared Afghan forces.
Friday's mosque blast was the deadliest single attack in Afghanistan since 80 died on December 6 last year in a suicide bombing at a shrine in Kabul on the Shiite holy day of Ashura.