South Asia

Roadside bomb kills Afghan civilians

Map of Afghanistan

A roadside bomb has killed nine civilians in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar, officials say.

The blast struck a minibus on the main highway in Maywand district, news agency AFP quoted a provincial official as saying.

The dead include three children. Officials said eight others were wounded in the attack.

Violence has increased in southern Afghanistan in recent weeks ahead of a planned major operation by Nato forces.

Nato has said that taking control of Kandahar will be the key to reversing the momentum of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Taliban birthplace

Kandahar provincial government Zalmai Ayoubi said that four women, two men and three children died in the blast in Maywand district of the province.

Image caption Violence in Afghanistan has spiralled this month

He told the AP news agency that the eight injured people were taken to a hospital run by Nato troops.

Mr Ayoubi said the group was travelling from their village towards the city of Kandahar when an explosion occurred after the driver turned off the main road to go around a section that was damaged.

Kandahar is the birthplace of the Taliban and at the centre of Nato's plans to end nearly nine years of their insurgency.

So far this month at least 30 Nato troops have been killed in Afghanistan, 20 of them US service members.

On Wednesday insurgents shot down a US helicopter over Helmand - another southern province - killing four American troops.

On Thursday, the Nato commander in Afghanistan said a military operation to drive militants out of Kandahar will move at a slower pace than planned.

Gen Stanley McChrystal said the operation would happen "more slowly" in order to ensure local support.

He did not specify any time frame for the offensive, but US forces had planned to start the Kandahar operation this summer.

The Taliban are fighting to overthrow the US-backed government and expel 130,000 foreign troops based there.

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