Roadside bomb kills 14 Afghan civilians


A roadside bomb probably set by Taliban insurgents killed at least 14 Afghan civilians aboard a minibus Thursday in the country’s relatively safe northwest.

Also Thursday, the spokesman for the Defense Ministry said four Afghan soldiers had been killed in Helmand province by what he described as a mistaken NATO airstrike.

The civilian deaths and the alleged case of “friendly fire” underscore the complicated perils of the U.S.-dominated international effort to stabilize Afghanistan nine years after the ouster of the Taliban from power. The violence came on the same day the Obama administration issued a long-awaited assessment of its Afghan war strategy.


Some critics of the strategy say international forces have invested too much money and resources in the cities, which are relatively safe, while neglecting the country’s agrarian economy and allowing the Taliban to take root in Afghanistan’s rural hinterlands.

But advocates say securing the population centers first is a key component of a strategy that involves creating havens for commerce and civil society that can be expanded into the countryside. They also insist that the United States and its Western allies have long neglected Afghanistan, and that only recently has the North Atlantic Treaty Organization-led international force here begun earnest efforts at securing the country and bolstering civilians’ trust in the central government.

The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross mission to Afghanistan told reporters Wednesday that homemade bombs set by insurgents were the top threat to civilians increasingly under threat by armed groups in the conflict.

In addition to killing the 14 civilians, the bombing Thursday in the ethnically mixed Kushki Kuhna district of Herat province injured four people. Women and children were among the passengers killed and wounded.

All were members of the same extended family, said Shafiq Behrouzian, the spokesman for the provincial governor.

Security forces also found and defused two other roadside bombs in the mountainous area, near the border with Turkmenistan, while evacuating survivors of the blast, Behrouzian said.


Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Mohammed Zahir Azimi said Afghan soldiers were on patrol in the Musa Qala district of Helmand when they were struck Wednesday night by what he described as a coalition airstrike.

Azimi provided no further details.


Yaqubi is a special correspondent.