Afghan bombings kill 25, target US base

HERAT, Afghanistan, Aug 18, 2011 (AFP) - Bomb attacks killed 25 people in Afghanistan on Thursday, ripping through a minibus packed with civilians and targeting a US-run base in the east bordering Pakistan, officials said.

The attacks in opposite ends of the country underscored how pernicious Taliban-led insurgents have become in fighting to bring down the Western-backed government of President Hamid Karzai and evict 140,000 US-led foreign troops.

AFP - A wounded Afghan civilian man is handed over to Kandahar hospital after he was brought by a Medivac helicopter of 159th Brigade Task Force Thunder on August 17, 2011

Women and children were among the casualties when a roadside bomb tore through the minibus in the western province of Herat, killing 22 civilians, the provincial government said.

The bus was travelling between the district of Obe and the provincial capital Herat city, local administration spokesman, Moheyddin Noori, told AFP.

In a second explosion in the same district one woman was killed and seven men were wounded when their truck hit another improvised bomb, Noori said.

"In total we have 23 dead and seven injured," Noori said, speaking at the Herat city hospital.

The local government spokesman blamed the bombing on "the armed opposition groups" -- a reference to Taliban-led insurgents, who have been fighting to win back power since the 2001 US-led invasion ousted them from government in Kabul.

Improvised bombs, built with old ammunition, have been the weapon of choice for the Taliban and other insurgents for nearly 10 years.

But the poorly-made devices often kill civilians travelling on Afghan dirt roads between their villages and big cities.

Military officials say the makeshift bombs, also known as IEDs (improvised-explosive devices) are the main killer of troops in the US-led NATO force deployed in Afghanistan and local Afghan security forces.

The Herat explosion followed a suicide car bombing at a US-run base in the eastern province of Paktia, in which two Afghan guards died.

While western Afghanistan is considered relatively secure, the east has long been a flashpoint for violence, which Western officials say is fuelled by rear bases operated by the Taliban and other Islamist networks in Pakistan.

"The bomber was in a vehicle. He tried to enter the base (but) the guards did not let him. He was frustrated and detonated at the very, very first gate," a coalition spokesman said.

"Two Afghan-contracted guards were killed," the spokesman told AFP.

The Paktia provincial police chief told AFP three people, two contracted guards and a border police officer in a nearby police base, had been wounded.

The police chief, Abdul Ghafar Sapai, told AFP that the distance between the first barrier, where the truck bomb detonated, and the main gate was more than 100 metres (300 feet).

The base houses small groups of troops and civilian experts who are trying to help rebuild the war-torn country and enhance security. The groups are known as Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT) and are assigned across Afghanistan.

The PRTs are run by various Western nations as part of NATO's US-led International Security Assistance Force mission in Afghanistan. The Gardez PRT is run by the United States.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in Gardez, the capital of eastern Paktia province.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed contacted AFP from an undisclosed location by telephone, saying that dozens of US and Afghan troops were killed and wounded.

The Taliban are known to make exaggerated, sometimes false, statements when it comes to deaths caused in their attacks.

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