At least 30 people have been killed in 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.
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The blast outside New Kabul Bank in Lashkar Gah is the latest in a series of brazen attacks in during the holy month of Ramadan.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. It has been responsible for similar attacks against the bank, where most government employees have their salaries deposited.
The Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, condemned the attack. The perpetrators “have no respect for any religion or faith. They are enemies of humanity,” he said.
Lashkar Gah’s main trauma centre, received 23 bodies and 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 had been killed and more than 60 injured, many critically. He said most of the fatalities were soldiers.
It is the third time in three years that militants have targeted crowds collecting salaries at the bankA suicide bomber and a gunman killed 10 people in 2014, and seven were killed in a suicide bombing in February. The Taliban claimed responsibility for both attacks.
A border police officer who gave his name as Rahmatullah said he had kept his distance from the queue as he waited to get inside the bank because of the spate of attacks.
“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. I saw lot of injured and dead people,” he said. He sustained a leg injury in the blast. .”
Helmand has long been a Taliban stronghold. Lashkar Gah is one of the only populated areas in the province under government control.
US Marines for the first time since 2014 in April, deploying 300 personnel to a province where more foreign and Afghan soldiers have lost their lives than anywhere else in the country.
The Trump administration has said it will deploy about 4,000 extra troops in Afghanistan, in addition to the 8,400 still serving there. Nato allies such as Australia and Denmark have also pledged more troops.
Most analysts doubt the Taliban can be defeated militarily, particularly given that it with 150,000 foreign troops at the height of .
The US defence secretary 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, of a new strategy in mid-July.