Helmand blasts kill four and wound dozens, including governor

Deadly explosions targeted a Farmers Day celebration

People react after a twin bomb blasts targeting the Farmers Day ceremony attended by the Governor of Helmand province, in Helmand, Afghanistan. EPA
People react after a twin bomb blasts targeting the Farmers Day ceremony attended by the Governor of Helmand province, in Helmand, Afghanistan. EPA

A bomb attack claimed by the Taliban killed four people and wounded dozens of others in southern Afghanistan on Saturday, including the governor of Helmand province.

The bombings targeted a celebration of Farmer's Day at a sports stadium in the provincial capital Lashkar Gah, a spokesman for governor Mohammad Yasin Khan said.

Omar Zwak said 31 people were wounded in the blasts, including provincial council members and provincial security officials, but none were in critical condition.

He said Mr Khan, who was among nearly 1,000 people attending the festival, was knocked over by the twin blasts but suffered only minor injuries.

The government said Mohammad Khan Nasrat, the economic director of Helmand, was among those killed.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in a message posted on Twitter by their spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.

In Reuters video footage, bursts of gunfire can be heard before and after one of the blasts, causing people to flee. A witness said the gunfire came from security personnel.

"There was chaos and people were running. Security forces asked them to calm down and then the second explosion happened," said Najibullah, who was in the stadium for the celebrations.

The explosions seemed to come from where tents were set up for farmers to display their produce, he told Reuters.

The attack is one of several to occur during celebrations of Afghanistan's traditional new year, which continue for several days. On Thursday, explosions in the Afghan capital of Kabul killed six people and wounded 23. That attack was claimed by ISIS.

Helmand produces much of Afghanistan's opium and is one of several provinces in which insurgents exert greater control than the state.

Saturday's attack came exactly one year after a car bomb killed at least 14 people who had gathered to watch a wrestling match in Lashkar Gah.

Elsewhere in Afghanistan, dozens of people protested against a military operation in the northern Kunduz province while carrying the remains of their loved ones. Photos from the protest showed what appeared to be the bodies of 12 people, including five or six small children.

Police spokesman Inamuddin Rahmani told Associated Press there were operations in three different areas in Kunduz over the past three days in which scores of insurgents were killed.

"We are investigating if any civilians were killed or wounded," he said.

On Friday, two American service members were killed during an operation in Kunduz province. The Taliban said they were engaged in heavy fighting with Afghan and US forces in Kunduz.

The militants have continued fighting in Afghanistan despite beginning talks with the US on ending the their 17-year insurgency. The latest round ended this month with both sides reporting progress.

Updated: March 23, 2019 04:57 PM


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