A suicide bomber in a bazaar killed at least 17 civilians, most of them children, and four police men in Afghanistan’s southern province of Uruzgan on Sunday, police said.
The bomber targeted a police vehicle in a bazaar in Deh Rawud district, the provincial police chief said.
“Seventeen civilians and four policemen died in the attack. Thirty seven more civilians and five police have been wounded,” Juma Khan Himat said by phone, adding the death toll could rise.
Himat said most of the civilian victims were children.
He blamed Taliban insurgents for the attack, part of a rising tide of violence in Afghanistan, where the militants largely rely on such tactics as part of their campaign against foreign troops and the Afghan government.
The interior ministry in Kabul said 24 people, four of them police, including a senior police were killed in the attack.
Meanwhile, international and Afghan security forces also killed at least 40 militants in an operation in the southern province of Helmand, the US-led coalition said.
The fighting started on Saturday after militants ambushed an joint Afghan and international security patrol in the province’s volatile Sangin district, the US-led coalition said in a statement. “The ensuing fight led ANSF (Afghanistan National Security Forces) and coalition forces to return fire and call for precision air strikes,” it said. “At least 40 militants have been killed in the last two days, while over 30 enemy boats and several... bridges were also destroyed on the Helmand River,” it added.
A soldier with the same unit was killed by a roadside bomb on Sunday, the coalition said. The soldier was killed when his vehicle struck the device during insurgents’ attack on a joint patrol of Afghan and coalition forces, a spokesman for the military separately said.
Over 800 civilians have been killed in Afghanistan so far this year, according to the UN and Afghan officials.
Earlier, the Taliban said they shot dead two women who they said were prostitutes and had worked for the police, a claim rejected by the government.
The bodies of the women were found late on Saturday in the central province of Ghazni, provincial government spokesman Ismail Jahangir said.
“They were killed by unknown gunmen and their bodies are in the central hospital of Ghazni province,” Jahangir said.
A spokesman for the Taliban, Zabiullah Mujahed, said members of his militia had shot dead the women. “They were working with the crime department of the Ghazni police department and they were prostitutes as well,” he said.
But Jahangir countered: “The two women were not working and had no links with the government.”