Blasts kill 10 civilians in Afghanistan (Lead)

February 23rd, 2010 - 9:08 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban Lashkargah (Afghanistan), Feb 23 (DPA) Ten civilians were killed and 17 injured in bomb blasts in eastern and southern Afghanistan Tuesday, officials said.
Eight people were killed and 16 injured in the detonation of a bicycle loaded with explosives at Kandahar bus station in Lashkargah, the capital of the southern province of Helmand, Daoud Ahmad, a spokesman for the provincial governor, said.

He said all the victims were civilians. “We don’t know what the target of the attack was, because there were no security forces or government officials in the area at the time of the blast.”

Ahmadi blamed “enemies of Afghanistan” for the attack, a common term used by Afghan government officials to describe Taliban militants.

President Hamid Karzai “strongly condemned” the attack, saying “the perpetrators of these attacks and the plotters of these inhumane acts are enemies of Afghan people and their religion”, a statement from the presidential palace said.

Helmand province is the focus of an ongoing offensive by more than 15,000 NATO and Afghan troops. It is the biggest military campaign since the ouster of the Taliban regime in 2001.

Thousands of Afghan, the US and British soldiers have retaken key areas in Marjah, a town in Nad Ali district, some 20 km west of Lashkargah, but they still encounter Taliban attacks in the area.

“Afghan and combined forces continue to encounter small, but determined pockets of resistance, often from bunkers or other fortified positions,” NATO military said in a statement Tuesday. Roadside mines and booby traps are other threats hampering the combined forces’ advance.

Two more civilians were killed and another injured Tuesday when a bomb hidden inside a motorbike in Surkhrood district of the eastern province of Nangarhar was detonated, provincial police spokesman Abdul Ghafoor said.

That attack occurred as a convoy of Afghan government officials was passing by, he said, but noted that there were no casualties among the officials.

Tuesday’s attacks came one day after a suicide bomber in the same province killed 15 people - nearly all civilians -including a tribal elder.

The bombings also followed the deadliest attack on civilians so far this year in southern Dai Kundi province, where 27 civilians were killed by NATO airstrike after they were mistaken for insurgents Monday.

US General Stanley McChrystal, top NATO commander in Afghanistan, personally apologised to Karzai during a meeting at the palace Tuesday. In a video translated into local languages, McChrystal also appeared on local television, apologising to the Afghan people for the deaths.

McChrystal pledged that NATO forces would “re-double” their efforts to avoid such incidents. He said the military has already limited the use of airstrikes in the country.

Monday’s aerial strike was the deadliest since a German-ordered military air raid in northern province of Kunduz against two fuel tankers that killed 142 people in September last year.

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