/ 29 April 2008

Blast kills 15 Afghans in east of country

A suspected suicide bomber killed 15 Afghans and wounded 14 more in eastern Afghanistan, close to the border with Pakistan on Tuesday, a Nato spokesperson said.

The Taliban have vowed to step up suicide attacks this year to undermine the faith of Afghans in the ability of their government to provide security and sap support in the West for the continued presence of international troops in the country.

Initial reports said 25 Afghans were wounded in the blast near the district centre of Khogiani, a town south of the city of Jalalabad, but the number of wounded was later revised to 14, said Major Martin O’Donnell, a spokesperson for the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf).

It was not clear if the victims were civilians or members of the Afghan security forces.

Isaf forces were in the area at the time of the blast, but escaped injury and were now helping to treat the wounded and evacuate them to hospital, O’Donnell said. Isaf was investigating the explosion, but suspected it was caused by a suicide bomber.

Residents said Afghan forces and civilians were among the dead. One resident, reached by telephone from Kabul, said the dead included 11 Afghan security force members and two children.

Taliban insurgents launched more than 140 suicide attacks across the country targeting foreign and Afghan government forces last year, but most of the victims — about 200 — were civilians.

Fighting has steadily increased in the south and east of the country in recent weeks as Spring arrives and mountain snows begin to melt. — Reuters