Bomb at Afghan dogfight kills 3
A bomb planted on a motorcycle ripped through a crowd gathered to watch a dog fight in southern Afghanistan on Friday, killing three people and wounding more than 30, officials said.
Eighteen children were among those injured after the attack in Lashkar Gar, capital of southern province Helmand, a headquarters for the Taliban insurgency sweeping Afghanistan eight years after the 2001 US-led invasion.
"The number of casualties we have registered is 31 wounded and three dead," the head of Helmand's health directorate, Anayatullah Ghafari, told AFP.
"The wounded include 18 children aged 15 years or younger," he added.
The bomb was placed on a motorcycle parked near the dog-fighting pit and was detonated remotely as a crowd gathered to watch the fight, said deputy Helmand police chief Kamaludin Khan.
In February 2008, more than 80 people died and dozens were wounded in the bombing of a dog fight in Kandahar, which neighbours Helmand and the spiritual capital of the Taliban, in one of Afghanistan's deadliest suicide attacks.
Dog fighting, a popular Afghan winter sport, was banned by the extremist Taliban government during its 1996-2001 stint in power.
Helmand is the focus of an imminently expected US, Nato and Afghan offensive to clear insurgents from one of their bastions, south of Lashkar Gar in the Marjah district.
Senior military officials have said the operation will be the biggest in Afghanistan since the Taliban launched their insurgency soon after their regime was overthrown in a US-led invasion following the September 11, 2001 attacks.
The United States and Nato allies are deploying an extra 40,000 troops to Afghanistan this year, on top of more than 100,000 foreign forces already fighting the Taliban-led insurgency in the country.
Most of the new troops are heading south, officials say, taking the fight to insurgents in a bid to flush them out of populated areas to create a suitable environment for development and job creation.
On Thursday, the United States urged Nato allies to send thousands of trainers to help strengthen Afghan security forces as the overall commander in Afghanistan said security was no longer deteriorating.
"I do not say now that I think it's deteriorating. I said that last summer and I believe that was correct. I feel differently now," US General Stanley McChrystal told reporters.