KUNAR: At least seven people including children were killed when a roadside bomb struck a vehicle in eastern Afghanistan, officials said Sunday, the latest civilian casualties which soared to a record high this year.
The explosion occurred late Saturday when the pickup truck was driving from Asadabad, the capital of Kunar province, to Nari district close to the border with Pakistan.
“Last evening a pickup truck, with women and children onboard, was blown up by a roadside bomb, that killed seven people including two little girls,” Nari police chief Mohammad Yousuf said.
He blamed the Taliban for the blast, which also left three women wounded.
Mohammad Rahman Danish, the district chief of Nari, confirmed the incident, which highlights worsening violence as US-led troops leave Afghanistan after more than a decade of fighting.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast, but roadside bombs are the Taliban’s weapon of choice in their battle against the US-backed government and foreign forces, that also increasingly kill and wound civilians.
A UN report released on Friday said civilian casualties hit a record high this year, with 3,188 civilians killed and 6,429 injured by the end of November.
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) report warned that civilian casualties were expected to exceed 10,000 by the end of the year, making it the deadliest year for noncombatants since the organisation began issuing its authoritative reports in 2009.
Compared to 2013, this year also saw a 33 per cent rise in casualties among children and a 12 per cent increase among women.
While ground fighting between troops and insurgent groups and Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) remained leading causes of deaths and injuries, the Taliban were accountable for 75 per cent of all civilian casualties, the report said.
Nato is wrapping up its combat operations on Dec 31, but a follow-up mission of about 12,500 US-led Nato troops will stay on in Afghanistan to train and support the local security forces now responsible for fighting the Taliban.
Taliban kill seven Afghan policemen at checkpoint
The Taliban attacked a checkpoint in northern Afghanistan, killing at least seven policemen, an official said.
The checkpoint attack took place in Jawzjan province, said Abdul Manan Raoufi, the region’s police operational chief.
Along with the seven killed, five other policemen were wounded in the attack late Saturday in a village in the province’s Qashtepa district.
Police reinforcements were sent to the location and a gunbattle ensued in which five insurgents died, Raoufi said. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.
Meanwhile, a battle has been raging between insurgents and government forces for more than a week in eastern Kunar province, said Abdul Ghani Musamem, spokesman for provincial governor.
He said it was difficult to determine exact casualty figures, though at least three civilians had been killed and around 28 insurgents so far. “There are casualties among civilians who are stuck in the battlefield but we don’t know how many right now,” he said.
In Kabul, a reporter wounded in an attack earlier this month on a French-run school died of his injuries. Also late on Saturday, 22-year-old journalist Zubair Hatami died in Kabul from wounds sustained in a Taliban attack on a French-run school earlier this month.
Hatami, a cameraman with the privately-run Mitra Television, was seriously wounded when a teenage suicide bomber blew himself up during a performance at the Etsiqlal High School on Dec 11. A German aid worker was also killed in that attack.
Taliban militants have intensified their war on the Afghan government in recent months, and have been hitting soft targets such as schools and foreign guesthouses in the capital ahead of the withdrawal of most foreign combat forces on Dec 31.