Dozens Killed in Multiple Car Bomb Attacks

A man is transported to a hospital on a gurney after a car bomb attack in Lashkar Gah, Helmand province, Afghanistan.
A man is transported to a hospital on a gurney after a car bomb attack in Lashkar Gah, Helmand province, Afghanistan. (REUTERS/Abdul Malik)

A car bomb exploded outside a bank in Lashkar Gah, capital of the southern Afghan province of Helmand on Thursday, killing and wounding dozens of civilians and members of the security forces waiting to collect their pay, officials said.

Omar Zwak, spokesman for the provincial governor, said at least 20 people had been killed and more than 50 wounded, including members of the police and army, civilians and staff of the New Kabul Bank branch where the attack took place.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack but insurgent groups, including the Taliban, have in the past targeted banks where police, soldiers and other government employees collect their pay.

The incident is the latest in a series that has underlined a steadily worsening security situation across Afghanistan, almost three years after international troops ended their main combat mission in 2014.

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Emergency workers and passers-by tried to help the injured, who were strewn among the dead. Ambulances and private cars ferried the victims to hospitals.

The blast came as Afghans were preparing to celebrate next week's Eid al-Fitr festival marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

While high-profile attacks in the capital, Kabul, have drawn headlines, there have been dozens of similar incidents in provincial centers across Afghanistan over recent months.

Helmand, one of the world's major centers of opium growing, and a traditional heartland of the Taliban, has been under particularly heavy pressure with large parts of the province in the hands of the insurgents.

Another car bomb targeting a police station killed at least seven people in Somalia's capital Mogadishu on Thursday, police said, and al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab said it was behind the attack, the second this week.

A Reuters witness saw bodies lying on the ground at the Waberi police station, near Maka al Mukarama road, the busiest street in Mogadishu. Cars were ruined and the building damaged.

"We carried seven dead people and 12 others injured from the scene," Abdikadir Abdirahman, director of the Amin ambulance service, told Reuters. Major Mohamed Hussein, a police officer, had earlier given a toll of four dead.

The blast came despite thousands of security personnel, including police, intelligence and military, being assigned to secure Mogadishu earlier this month.

On Tuesday, a car bomb attack on a government building in Mogadishu, also claimed by the al Shabaab militant group, killed at least 10 people.

"As you can see, the terrorists attacked the station which is now destroyed," Ahmed Mohamed, spokesman for the Mogadishu security forces told reporters at the scene.

Al Shabaab, which wants to force out African Union peacekeepers, oust the Western-backed government and impose its strict interpretation of Islam on Somalia, claimed responsibility for the attack.

It also gave a higher number for those killed. Its numbers often differ from those given by government officials.

Al Shabaab spokesman Abdiasis Abu Musab said a suicide bomber rammed his car into the police station. "Eleven enemies in the station died and more were injured," he said.

© 2017 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

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