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Civilian deaths leave Afghanistan on tenterhooks

Rockets shelling and a car bombing kill 25 civilians in southern Helmand province

By Mujeeb R. Awrang

KABUL: At least 25 civilians were killed and 15 others received injuries in several blasts that ripped a busy local cattle market apart in southern Helmand province, an uptick in violence in the face of US-Taliban peace deal signed on 29th February meant to reduce violence.

The fatalities came after four mortars landed in a cattle market in Sangin district on Monday morning. It was also followed by a car bombing, where a number of children were also wounded. Some livestock were also killed. The government and the Taliban both blamed each other for initiating the attack. Death tolls are not clear thus far with one source saying 23 civilians were killed while others confirmed 25.

Provincial governor office said that the Taliban group had fired four mortars followed by a car bomb blast that killed 23 civilians. Several livestock perished and a number of nearby houses were also destroyed in the blast.

But the Taliban said that mortars were fired from an Afghan army base. The army’s 2015 Corps has denied the allegation, saying that the Taliban fired mortars to target the Afghan army base that caused civilian deaths.

Sangin District Governor, Rohullah Basit accused the Taliban for the attack. “Taliban rebels fired rockets that killed 25 civilians and wounded 20 others.” The Taliban wanted to hit the Afghan National Army Compound, but it went astray and landed into a civilian area, he added.

The incident has taken place into Taliban’s control area, said Omar Zwak, the provincial governor spokesman who restrained from giving further details.

The rockets were fired by the Afghan security forces, a security source said. “10 people were dead and 15 others wounded,” the source said, wishing to go anonymous.

The Afghan masses have been seeing a pile-up in violence amid an uncertain preliminary peace deal signed between the US and Taliban on February 29th in Doha.

Beside fighting and violence, a number of new-type assassinations of some prominent figures, representing different segments of the society, have also been intensified.

Six civilians were killed after their vehicle hit a roadside mine in Washir district of the same province (Helmand). The incident had occurred on Sunday. Last week, a mortar hit a house in Sangin district in the same province, in which four civilians, all of them from a single family, were killed.

The Afghan people (civilians) have been bearing the brunt of casualties, and they are also victims of crossfire between the Afghan security forces and the Taliban rebels.

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