Suicide bombers killed at least 22 civilians near a NATO air base in Afghanistan on Wednesday, offcials said. Two bombers struck a parking area packed with truck drivers and others waiting to get into the facility in Kandahar province. One attacker on a motorcycle set off the first blast, and as people rushed to help the victims, a second bomber on foot detonated his explosives near small shops.
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At least 50 people were wounded in the blasts near the Kandahar Air Field, a massive base run by the U.S.-led coalition.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attacks. NATO on Wednesday accused the insurgent group of continuing to kill civilians, saying the group’s actions are “the most serious threat to Afghanistan’s sovereignty.”
In eastern Afghanistan, Afghan officials say a NATO airstrike killed 18 civilians, including women and children, in Logar province. Video from the scene showed the bodies of women and children loaded in the back of a vehicle.
NATO said “multiple insurgents” were killed during Wednesday’s operation targeting a Taliban leader in the Baraki Barak district. The coalition said two women were also wounded in the airstrike, but did not mention any civilian deaths.
The coalition said the airstrike came after insurgents fired on a joint Afghan-coalition force that was trying to detain a Taliban leader.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has repeatedly criticized international forces for causing civilian casualties. Last week, he ordered a probe into a coalition airstrike that Afghan officials said killed a family of eight in the eastern province of Paktia.
Despite the recent allegations, the United Nations says civilian casualties caused by pro-government forces have actually gone down — accounting for just nine percent of the more than 3,000 civilians who were killed in the first four months of the year. Insurgent attacks were responsible for almost 80 percent of the dead and injured.
Still, in a report released last week, the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said civilian casualties in Afghanistan remain at “unacceptably high levels.”
The continued violence has raised concerns about the ability of Afghan forces to handle security beyond 2014, when most NATO forces are planning to conclude their combat role.
NATO said Wednesday that two of its service members died in a helicopter crash in eastern Afghanistan. The coalition said the cause of the crash is under investigation.
And in northern Afghanistan, the World Food Program said Wednesday a convoy of 15 trucks carrying food supplies to school children was attacked in the Sheikh Ali district of Parwan province. The United Nations agency says all the drivers were safe, but that three of the trucks were burned Monday, in the first direct attack on a WFP convoy.
WFP says last year it provided food aid to seven million Afghans in all 34 provinces of the country.