At least seven killed in Helmand blast

A remote-controlled bomb killed at least seven Afghan civilians and wounded 14 in front of a government building in southern Afghanistan on Tuesday, a government official said.

The blast was in Lashkar Gah, capital of Helmand, Afghanistan's most violent province. Nato-led troops are in the 10th day of an operation to flush the Taliban out of nearby Marjah district, where the militants had set up their last big stronghold in Helmand.

"The blast was caused by explosives attached to a bicycle and was controlled remotely," said Dawud Ahmadi, spokesman for Helmand's provincial government.

He said later all the casualties were civilians. "The latest information we have says that seven people have been killed and 14 wounded," Ahmadi said.

He said he did not know who the target of the blast was.

Violence across Afghanistan last year hit its highest levels since the Taliban were ousted by US-backed Afghan forces in late 2001. The Islamist militants have made a comeback and are resisting efforts by President Hamid Karzai's U.S.-backed government to impose control.

In Zabul province, also in the south, a roadside bomb hit a convoy of Romanian soldiers serving with the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) on today, said Mohammad Jan Rasoulyar, a spokesman for the provincial governor.

Five casualties were evacuated from the site, Rasoulyar said, but it was not clear if anyone had been killed.

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