Over a dozen killed in Helmand bomb attack
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At least 13 people have been killed and about 40 more injured by a bomb attack on a market in Lashkar Gah in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province, according to international Nato forces. The blast went off as farmers gathered to receive free seeds as part of an anti-opium drive.
The attack on Wednesday was probably an improvised explosive device, since no sign of a suicide bomber has been found, officials say.
International forces’ helicopters have evacuated 40 people to regional hospitals, including the British-run base in Helmand, Camp Bastion.
The Afghan Interior Ministry says that the bomb was attached to a bicycle and detonated by remote control.
The farmers had gathered at Babaji, on the outskirts of Lashkar Gah, so as to travel to Gereksh in the Helmand River valley to be given the seeds, provincial government spokesperson Daud Ahmadi said Wednesday.
The distribution of seeds, mainly wheat, was part of efforts to undermine drug lords, whom government and international forces accuse of working with the Taliban to keep the province out of central control.
Afghanistan is the source of most of the world’s heroin. Lashkar Gah is just 20 kilometres from the poppy-producing Marjah region, the scene of the recent Moshtarak offensive.
Neighbouring Kandahar province is now the “cornerstone” of the fight against the Taliban, US Joint Chief of Staffs chair Mike Mullen told reporters in Kabul, a day after touring Marjah.
“Kandahar is the very heart of the insurgency,” he said. “The next operations are there.”
Military planners say that operations in Kandahar have already begun and will escalate incoming months.
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