21 dead in Helmand assaults (UPDATED)
LASHKARGAH (PAN): Twenty-one people, including four policemen, have been killed in separate militant attacks in the southern province of Helmand, officials said on Friday.
Sixteen civilians, including a woman and a child, were killed when a passenger vehicle struck a roadside bomb in the Nahr-i-Siraj area of Greshk district at around 7am, the provincial intelligence chief said.
Col. Abdul Karim told Pajhwok Afghan News the victims were travelling from the district to Lashkargah, the provincial capital, when the blast ripped through their vehicle.
Police reached the scene to move the dead and wounded, the official said, adding the area was littered with landmines. Police are trying to detect and defuse the mines.
The policemen came under fire from the insurgents soon after they reached the site, said the governor's security advisor, Abdul Ali Shamsi.
Return fire from the police forced the fighters to flee, he added. He said the bodies had been removed from the scene and handed over to their families.
An official at the police headquarters, requesting anonymity, said the bombs had been planted by militants to target local and foreign forces.
In a statement delivered Sunday to Pajhwok Afghan News, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), condemned the roadside attack, saying: "The loss of innocent civilian life in this calculated attack is heart wrenching. Our condolences go out to the families and friends of the victims. We will work with our Afghan partners to bring those responsible to justice."
In the same district, four policemen were killed in an overnight guerrilla ambush. They came under attack in the Burj Barq area, said police officer Col. Talib Jan Mangal.
On the other hand, rebel spokesman Qari Yousaf Ahmadi claimed nine policemen, including two commanders, were killed in the assault. He named the dead police officers as Salam and Laal Jan.
Meanwhile, one person was killed and four others sustained injuries when the vehicle they were travelling in hit a landmine in Garmser district on Friday morning, according to Shamsi.
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