Blast kills at least 14 civilians in Afghanistan

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Kabul, Dec 30 (AP) A roadside bomb blew up next to aminibus at a crowded intersection on a major highway insouthern Afghanistan today, killing at least 14 civilians,officials said.

The blast struck the minibus in the Lashkar Gah-Sangindistrict in Helmand province on the main road running from thecity of Kandahar to Herat, said Daoud Ahmadi, a spokesman forthe Helmand governor''s office.

He said four others were wounded in the blast andthat the dead included women and children.

The bus was transporting people to a local bazaar, saidGhulam Haidar, who arrived at the scene after learning thattwo of his brothers had been killed.

"There was a huge blast ... body parts were scattered faraway" from the bus, he said.

Haidar said he took his cousin and a child who was on thebus to a local hospital. He learned that the child later died.

President Hamid Karzai condemned the bombing as a "bloodthirsty" attack, saying in a statement that the explosive was"planted by the enemy of the Afghan people."

Helmand is one of the Taliban''s strongholds in southernAfghanistan. It has been the scene of some of the fiercestfighting in the war and an area where NATO has poured introops in a bid to quell the insurgency.

Last week, the Helmand governor''s office said fivecivilians were killed during a firefight between militants andNATO forces in the province''s Sangin district. Seveninsurgents were killed in that battle.

While NATO''s push in the south has put pressure on theTaliban there, the international coalition has also beenforced to contend with an increase in insurgent attackselsewhere in the country, where an uptick in violence hasraised questions about NATO''s claims of major progress in thewar.

In an attack on one of the few calm provinces, theTaliban fired two rockets into Bagram Air Field, the main U.S.

base in Afghanistan. Master Sgt Jason Haag, a NATO spokesmanin Kabul, said "two rounds of indirect fire" hit Bagram. (AP)

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