Roadside bombs, clashes kill 26 in Afghanistan
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - Reuters
REUTERS PhotoA string of roadside bombs and clashes in southern Afghanistan killed at least 24 Afghan civilians and police on Sunday, officials said, in one of the deadliest days of violence in the country for weeks.
Two NATO soldiers were also killed by a roadside bomb and insurgents in separate attacks over the past two days in the south, the coalition said, without providing further details.
The violence comes as major donors in Tokyo pledged $16 billion in development aid for Afghanistan over the next four years as they seek to prevent it from sliding back into chaos once most foreign troops leave by the end of 2014.
Three bombs hit three vehicles in Kandahar province, the birthplace of the Taliban where the group has substantial sway and enjoys popular support, killing 18 people including children.
"Villagers were travelling in a mini-van and a tractor when they were hit by twin roadside bombs planted by the Taliban," provincial governor spokesman Ahmad Faisal said of the attack in Spin Boldak near Afghanistan's border with Pakistan.
A third bomb then killed a family of four in Arghistan district, also straddling the Pakistani border, local officials said.
Two policemen were killed by a bomb in southern Helmand province which borders Kandahar to its west, where clashes with militants killed another four officers, its media office said.
Roadside bombs are by far the deadliest weapon deployed by Taliban insurgents in the war against NATO and the government of President Hamid Karzai.
Civilians bear the brunt of the violence. Despite the UN reporting a 20 percent decrease in civilian deaths in the first four months of this year compared to the same period in 2011, last year saw the number of civilians killed in Afghanistan rise for a fifth straight year to over 3,000.
NATO says the vast majority of these deaths are caused by insurgents, and not by the coalition.