Afghan bomb attacks kill at least 12 civilian

A suicide
bomber killed 10 civilians on Sunday when he detonated his explosives near a
crowd in southern Afghanistan, while a roadside bomb in the east killed two
others, officials said.

Violence in
Afghanistan has surged, with 2009 being the worst year since U.S.-backed Afghan
forces overthrew the Taliban in 2001. More than 2,400 civilians were killed
last year, a 14 per cent rise on 2008, the United Nations said.

In the first
incident, a suicide bomber driving a three-wheeled rickshaw detonated his
explosives near a crowd who were holding a picnic for the Afghan New Year in Gereshk
district of Helmand province, the provincial governor’s spokesman said.

“The
target was an Afghan Army vehicle. The first reports are that 10 civilians have
been killed and seven more wounded,” said spokesman Daoud Ahmadi, adding
the bomb missed its target.

“The
bomber was driving a rickshaw and was targeting an army vehicle. When the
soldiers saw the rickshaw they sped up. The bomb exploded in a crowded area
where many people were having picnics,” said eyewitness Khan Mohammad.

“Many
people have been killed and wounded,” he said.

A spokesman
for NATO-led forces in Kabul said none of its forces were killed or wounded in
the attack, but that foreign troops were now in the area assessing the
situation.

In February,
thousands of U.S. Marines launched an assault in Marjah, another part of
Helmand, which had been under the insurgents’ control. The operation was
described as the biggest offensive of the eight-year war.

There are some
120,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan and that is set to rise to nearly 150,000
by the end of this year as Washington sends in more troops as part of a new
strategy to try and quell the mounting violence.

Separately, in
Khost province in the southeast of the country, a roadside bomb killed two
Afghan civilians and wounded four, a senior police chief said.

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