Car bomb targeting NATO aid team kills 4 Afghans

A suicide attacker detonated a car laden with powerful explosives Thursday in southern Afghanistan, killing four Afghan civilians and wounding 31 other people, including three British aid workers, officials said.

Britain's International Development ministry in London confirmed that three civilian members of the international aid team were among those injured in the blast. They were being treated for non-life threatening wounds, the ministry said.

The bomb exploded as a convoy from the British-led Provincial Reconstruction Team passed by in Lashkar Gah, capital of Helmand province, said Daud Ahmadi, a spokesman for the provincial governor.

More than two dozen Provincial Reconstruction Teams operate in Afghanistan. The joint international military-civilian units work on projects to boost support for the Afghan government of President Hamid Karzai.

No one claimed responsibility for the car bomb. Helmand has been one of the most volatile areas in the Taliban insurgency's pushback against a U.S.-led initiative to bring southern Afghanistan under greater control of the central Afghan government as NATO heads toward a 2014 pullout target.

The blast ripped through the convoy of three armored vehicles, knocking at least one over and charring others. The explosion also shredded nearby storefronts and damaged at least 17 civilian cars nearby, a provincial statement said.

Afghan National Army soldier Dad Mohammad witnessed the attack while on patrol in the town.

“A car passed our vehicle and parked down the road,” he said. “When the foreigners' vehicle was passing this road, it was targeted and there was an explosion.”

A spokesman for NATO declined to comment on the attack, referring all questions to the Afghan provincial government.

Karzai, who is on a trip meeting European leaders, condemned the attack. A statement from his office Thursday blamed “the enemy of the Afghan people” for the violence, which it called “un-Islamic and against humanity.”

Elsewhere, officials said a rocket fired by Taliban insurgents killed a woman and her child in eastern Afghanistan.

Insurgents fired the mortar round during a battle Wednesday with Afghan army soldiers trying to clear militants from a stronghold in Kapisa province's Alasay district, said the provincial governor's chief of staff, Abdul Sabor Wafa.

In the south, an Afghan toddler was accidentally killed and the child's parents were wounded when Danish soldiers blew up a roadside bomb Monday in Helmand province, the Danish army said. The army said in a statement issued Wednesday that soldiers typically create a security zone around such a device before detonation, but shrapnel struck the three. The case is being investigated.

___

Associated Press reporter Mirwais Khan in Kandahar and David Stringer in London contributed to this report.

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