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{UAH} Suicide car bomb causes multiple deaths in Afghanistan

Suicide car bomb causes multiple deaths in Afghanistan

Explosion at bank in Helmand province as civilians and officials queued to withdraw salaries leaves at least 30 dead

A man is transported to hospital after the car bomb attack in Lashkar Gah, Afghanistan
 A man is transported to hospital after the car bomb attack in Lashkar Gah. Photograph: Abdul Malik/Reuters

At least 30 people have been killed in Afghanistan's Helmand province after a car bomb targeted soldiers, government employees and other civilians queueing to collect pay cheques from a bank in the provincial capital.

The blast, outside New Kabul Bank in Lashkar Gah, is the latest in a series of brazen attacks in Afghanistan during the holy month of Ramadan.

No group immediately claimed responsibility, but the Taliban have been responsible for similar attacks against the bank, where most government employees have their salaries deposited.

Emergency hospital, Lashkar Gah's main trauma centre, received 23 killed and had admitted 43 injured patients. Several windows shattered at the hospital, which is close to the bank, but staff were unharmed, said Dejan Panic, a programme coordinator.

Omar Zawak, spokesman for the Helmand governor, said 30 people were killed and more than 60 injured, many critically. He said most fatalities were soldiers.

It is the third time in three years that militants have targeted crowds collecting salaries at the bank. In 2014, a suicide bomber and a gunman killed 10 people, and in February, seven were killed in a suicide bombing. The Taliban claimed responsibility for both attacks.

Due to the spate of bombings, Rahmatullah, a border police officer, said he had kept his distance from the queue as he waited to get inside.

Afghan security officials examine the site of the blast.
 Security officials examine the site of the blast. Photograph: Watan Yar/EPA

"I was waiting in front of the bank to take my salary, but I was worried about an explosion so I didn't join the crowd. And then suddenly the blast happened," said Rahmatullah, who sustained a leg injury in the blast. "I saw lot of injured and dead people."

Helmand has long been a Taliban stronghold. Lashkar Gah is one of the only populated areas in the province under government control.

In April, US Marines returned to Helmand for the first time since 2014, deploying 300 personnel to a province that claimed the lives of more foreign and Afghan soldiers than anywhere else in the country.

The Trump administration said it would add about 4,000 troops to the 8,400 American soldiers serving in Afghanistan. Nato allies such as Australia and Denmark have also pledged more troops.

Most analysts doubt the Taliban can be defeated militarily, particularly as that proved impossible with 150,000 foreign troops at the height of Barack Obama's "surge".

The US defence secretary has said that while the country is not winning the war in Afghanistan, "we will correct this as soon as possible". In response to criticism from senators, James Mattis said he would provide details for a new strategy in mid-July.

Additional reporting by Aliyas Dayee in Lashkar Gah.

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