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    Roadside bomb kills 9 civilians in Marja

    LASHKARGAH (PAN): At least nine civilians, including three children, were killed as their vehicle struck a roadside bomb in Marja district of southern Helmand province, officials said on Wednesday.

    The homemade device was detonated as a van drove over it in the centre of the district -- a former Taliban stronghold -- which was captured as a result of a high-profile offensive in February, said Helmand governor's spokesman, Daud Ahmadi.

    He blamed the Taliban for planting the roadside bomb which also injured four others.

    The wounded civilians were evacuated to a military health facility in the district, Ahmadi added.

    No groups, including the Taliban who have stepped up the use of roadside bombs across the country, have claimed responsibility for the attack.

    A recent human rights report said an alarming number of civilians have been killed in the first half of this year.

    The Afghan Rights Monitor's mid-year study said more than 1000 civilians have been killed and 1,500 others wounded over the past six months, attributing to roadside bombs, suicide attacks and military operations.