Afghanistan attacks kill 20 on day of violence
Taliban gunmen in Afghanistan have been accused of killing 12 landmine clearers on a day of attacks that saw at least eight other people killed.
Another 12 mine clearers were hurt when the Taliban struck in Helmand province, police said, adding that four gunmen were later killed.
A suicide bomber killed seven soldiers on a bus in Kabul and a court official was shot dead elsewhere in the capital.
Taliban attacks have mounted as the US and Nato wind down their mission.
As well as the de-miners killed, several others were reported missing, believed abducted.
They came under attack near the former British base of Camp Bastion by gunmen reportedly riding motorcycles.
Troops later engaged the attackers, killing four and capturing three, police spokesman Farid Ahmad Obaid told reporters.
After decades of war, Afghanistan remains one of the most heavily mined nations in the world, the BBC’s Mike Wooldridge reports from Kabul.
Our correspondent says de-miners are supposed to be accepted as neutral by all parties to the conflict, as their work seeks to reduce the constant danger to civilians from the unexploded debris of war.
However, they are frequently the target of attacks. In April, Taliban gunmen killed 12 of them in Logar province.
A spokesman for the UN-supported humanitarian mine action centre in Afghanistan condemned Saturday’s attack.
President Ashraf Ghani described the attack as the “work of the enemies of Afghanistan”.
- Mines killed or injured an average of 39 civilians each month during 2013
- Nearly one million Afghans (3% of the population) live within 500m (546yds) of landmine-contaminated areas
- Minefields hinder development projects such as road construction
- As many as 640,000 mines have been laid since Soviet invasion of 1979
- Between 1988 and 2013, nearly 226,000 planted mines were destroyed by an NGO, Halo Afghanistan.
Elsewhere, in the second suicide attack in as many days, a bomber targeted an army bus in Kabul, killing at least seven people.
The bombing appears to have followed the pattern of the previous attack, which left six soldiers dead, our correspondent says.
Earlier on Saturday, Atiqullah Rawoofi, the head of the Afghan supreme court’s secretariat, was shot dead by two men on a motorbike as he walked from his home to his car.
On Friday, two US soldiers died when insurgents attacked a convoy close to the main international base north of Kabul.
The deaths bring to 65 the number of international troops killed in Afghanistan during 2014, 50 of them from the US.
Most foreign forces will leave the country in under three weeks, although about 12,000 Nato soldiers will remain to train and advise Afghan security forces from 1 January.
On a visit to the north Afghan city of Mazar-e-Shari, German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen said Afghans were “prepared and determined to take over responsibility for security in their country”.
But in view of the Taliban threat, foreign forces were “determined to stand by the Afghan security forces and to counsel them on how to counter this threat”, she added.
our correspondent says the recent violence has provoked fresh debate about how the Taliban have been able to evade the apparently rigorous security in the capital.
Last month, Kabul’s police chief resigned following several attacks on foreigners and locals in the city.
President Ghani, who took power in September, has vowed to bring peace after decades of conflict.