Roadside bomb kills 15 civilians in Afghanistan

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The Independent Online

A roadside bomb planted by the Taliban killed 15 civilians in remote southern Afghanistan and a shootout with NATO forces killed seven people in the east today, as Afghanistan saw a wave of violence, authorities said.

The roadside bomb struck yesterday afternoon as a pickup truck carrying villagers to a nearby bazaar rolled over the bomb in the Khan Neshin district of Helmand province, Daoud Ahmadi, spokesman for the provincial governor, said today.

NATO forces have poured troops into the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar, making some progress in routing the Taliban. But fighting and insurgent attacks have continued there as well as in the volatile eastern provinces such as Paktia.

In Paktia on Saturday, about 500 people gathered and shouted "Death to Americans!" amid local reports that a NATO operation killed seven members of a private security company.

NATO said it was investigating the shootout, which occurred after coalition forces detained a suspected insurgent and tried to clear the area. NATO forces then shot a man who approached them armed with an assault rifle.

"Multiple other armed individuals then engaged the force, which resulted in a total of seven individuals killed," NATO said in a statement. "The security force takes civilian casualty allegations seriously and is currently accessing who the individuals were, why they were armed and why they were in that area at that time of the morning."

Also today, a car bomb exploded outside a police headquarters in Kandahar, wounding at least six people and blowing out the windows of buildings up to a mile away, officials said.

Two civilians and four police officers were wounded, said Zalmai Ayubi, a spokesman for the governor of Kandahar province. Police cordoned off the area around Kandahar's police building.

Azar Jan, a police officer who was standing guard across the street from the police headquarters, said he noticed an empty, silver car parked on the street in the moments before the blast.

"As I was turning around, the explosion happened," Jan said, his bleeding head wrapped in a bandage.

In northern Afghanistan, a suicide bomber blew up a stolen police car that had been packed with explosives, injuring five Afghan soldiers and nine civilians near an army checkpoint today.

Muhbobullah Sayedi, the spokesman for the governor of Kunduz province, said the force of the blast destroyed several nearby homes. The only person killed was the suicide bomber.

The attack happened in Chahar Dara district, the most volatile district in the northern region.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in a text message sent to the media.