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20 killed in Afghan violence

By Ned Parker, Los Angeles Times –

KABUL, Afghanistan — Bombings killed at least 20 people around Afghanistan on Thursday as insurgents targeted Afghan security forces but left a number of civilians dead.

The deadliest incident was in southern Helmand province when a van struck a roadside bomb, killing 10 people, including five women and a child, said Helmand government spokesman Abdul Zeki.

Two teenage boys died when a bomb exploded in Zabul province as police tried to defuse it, said police spokesman Assadullah Shirza. Three police officers were wounded in the blast, he added. The boys had been scavenging for items in a trash pile when the explosion occurred, Shirza added.

The bombing elicited a strong condemnation from the NATO-led military coalition in Afghanistan. “These attacks are the most recent examples of how insurgents intentionally target, kill and injure those who want a brighter future for Afghanistan,” said Gen. John R. Allen, the force’s commander.

The United Nations has pleaded with insurgents to stop using roadside bombs because of the pain it inflicts upon Afghanistan’s civilian population.

Two attacks Thursday claimed the lives of Afghan security forces, who are regularly targeted by the Taliban as they seek to undermine confidence in the police and army ahead of the departure of foreign troops in 2014.

In eastern Laghman province, five Afghan soldiers died when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb, said Farhadi Zowak, a spokesman for the province’s governor. One soldier was wounded in the attack, which occurred as the troops’ convoy was carrying supplies to a base, he added.

A suicide bomber on a motorcycle blew himself up, killing three policemen in Kandahar province, said Jawed Faisal, a spokesman for the province’s governor. Kandahar is a longtime stronghold for the Taliban. While its capital has seen a drop in violence, its rural areas remain hotly contested.

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