Afghanistan: Roadside bomb kills 11 pilgrims in Kandahar

Explosion in southern province injures at least 35 other pilgrims on their way to a shrine, officials say.

    A roadside bomb in Afghanistan has killed at least 11 pilgrims riding a truck in the southern province of Kandahar, provincial officials said. 

    At least 35 others were also wounded after their truck set off a landmine in the Khakrez district of the province on Monday afternoon, said Ahmad Sadeq Essa, an army spokesperson for the southern region.

    Those wounded were transferred to a nearby military base and some critically injured in the incident were being transported to hospitals in the provincial capital, Essa added. 

    "The army only has a mobile clinic in Khakrez, and right now they are trying to transfer the wounded people to the regional hospital in Kandahar city for further treatment," he said. 

    A senior health official said 22 children and eight women were among those critically wounded.

    The victims were going on a pilgrimage to a shrine that houses the tomb of Sufi Shah Agha, a companion and relative of the Prophet Mohammad.

    No group immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing, but Yousof Younosi, a provincial council member in Kandahar, blamed the Taliban group, which often uses roadside bombs to target Afghan security forces in the province.

    Kandahar is considered the Taliban's birthplace and the group still controls some parts of the province.

    Wave of violence

    The violence came just a week after Taliban officials sat face-to-face with Afghan leaders as well as US negotiators in Qatar in a bid to end the 18-year war in Afghanistan.

    During the two-day intra-Afghan talks in Qatar's capital, Doha, the country's warring sides agreed upon a "roadmap for peace" with a pledge to eliminate civilian casualties.

    Since then, there have been a series of attacks in different parts of the country already ravaged by the devastating war. 

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    On Saturday, four Afghan security forces and a US service member were killed in two separate attacks claimed by the Taliban. 

    On Friday, at least six people were killed and 14 others wounded after a suicide bomber, believed to be in his early teens, targeted a wedding celebration in Afghanistan's eastern Nangarhar province.

    According to a quarterly report by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), explosives such as roadside bombs killed 53 civilians and left 269 others injured in the first three months of this year, a 21 percent increase from the same period last year.

    The figures do not include casualties from suicide bombings.

    UNAMA said it is "very concerned" by the increase in civilian casualties from the use of home-made bombs.

    The bombs are laid by fighters to hamper the movement and progress of Afghan forces, but they frequently harm civilians.

    Last year, at least 1,415 Afghan civilians were killed or injured by landmines and unexploded munitions. Children made up one-third of overall casualties, and 80 percent of those from unexploded munitions, according to the United Nations Mine Action Service.

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    SOURCE: News agencies