الأحد , يونيو 14 2020

Afghanistan hit by day of violence

Soldiers secure the scene of the bus attack in Kabul, 13 DecemberSoldiers secure the scene of the bus attack in Kabul

At least 20 people – including 12 members of a landmine-clearing team – have been killed in a series of attacks blamed on the Taliban in Afghanistan.

President Ashraf Ghani said the attack on the de-miners in Helmand province was the work of Afghanistan’s enemies.

Separately, a suicide bomber targeted a bus in the capital, Kabul, killing seven soldiers. Elsewhere in the city, a top court official was shot dead.

The Taliban has intensified attacks as US and Nato troops prepare to withdraw.

Most foreign forces are expected leave the country in under three weeks.

About 12,000 Nato soldiers will stay behind to train and advise Afghan security forces in 2015, as part of a gradual scaling back of their mission.

At its peak, the Nato deployment saw 150,000 foreign troops stationed in the country.

The landmine-clearing team was attacked near the former British base of Camp Bastion – reportedly by gunmen riding motorcycles.

Troops later fought the attackers, killing four and capturing three, police spokesman Farid Ahmad Obaid told reporters.

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Afghanistan’s minefields

An Afghan soldier with a mine detector at Camp Shaheen, west of Mazar-e-Sharif, 13 December

  • Mines killed or injured an average of 39 civilians each month during 2013
  • Nearly one million Afghans (3% of the population) live within 500m (546yds) of landmine-contaminated areas
  • Minefields hinder development projects such as road construction
  • As many as 640,000 mines have been laid since Soviet invasion of 1979
  • Between 1988 and 2013, nearly 226,000 planted mines were destroyed by an NGO, Halo Afghanistan

Sources: Mine Action Programme in Afghanistan, Halo Trust

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After decades of war, Afghanistan remains one of the most heavily mined nations in the world, the BBC’s Mike Wooldridge reports from Kabul.

Our correspondent says de-miners are supposed to be accepted as neutral by all parties to the conflict, as their work seeks to reduce danger to civilians.

However, they are frequently the target of attacks. In April, Taliban gunmen killed 12 of them in Logar province.

Afghan security officials stand near the site of an attack on a US convoy near Bagram air base in Afghanistan - 13 December 2014Militants targeted a Nato convoy close to the Bagram air base on Friday night, killing two soldiers

Meanwhile in Kabul, a suicide bomber blew himself next to an army bus, killing at least seven people. The vehicle burst into flames.

In a similar attack two days ago, a bomber travelling on foot detonated his explosives beside a bus full of soldiers, killing six of them.

Earlier on Saturday, Atiqullah Rawoofi, the head of the Afghan Supreme Court’s secretariat, was shot dead by two men on a motorbike as he walked from his home to his car.

On Friday, two US soldiers died when insurgents attacked a convoy close to the main international base north of Kabul.

The deaths bring to 65 the number of international troops killed in Afghanistan during 2014, 50 of them from the US.

German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen in the north Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif, 13 DecemberGerman Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen visiting troops in Mazar-e-Sharif

On a visit to the north Afghan city of Mazar-e-Shari, German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen said Afghans were “prepared and determined to take over responsibility for security in their country”.

But in view of the Taliban threat, foreign forces were “determined to stand by the Afghan security forces and to counsel them on how to counter this threat”, she added.

Our correspondent says the recent violence has provoked fresh debate about how the Taliban have been able to evade the apparently rigorous security in the capital.

Last month, Kabul’s police chief resigned following several attacks on foreigners and locals in the city.

President Ghani, who took power in September, has vowed to bring peace after decades of conflict.

Map of Afghanistan showing Kabul and Bagram and Helmand province

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