A landmine explosion killed nine children in northeastern Afghanistan yesterday, an official said, amid an increase in civilian casualties in the long-running and brutal war. The blast happened in volatile Darqad district of Takhar province, when the children stepped on a mine that had been planted on a road in a Taliban-controlled village. “At 8:30am (0400 GMT) this morning, tragically, nine schoolchildren were martyred in a landmine blast planted by the Taliban,” Jawad Hejri, a spokesman for the Takhar provincial governor, told AFP. He said the children -- all boys -- were aged from seven to 11. No group claimed responsibility for the blast, and the Taliban did not immediately respond to a request for comment.