Afghan roadside bomb kills 12 in Helmand

A bomb attack killed 11 women and children from two families, destroying their vehicle in southern Afghanistan, officials said Saturday.

The device planted on the side of the road struck their minivan on Friday afternoon in Gereshk district of Helmand province, one of the toughest battlegrounds in a 10-year Taliban insurgency.

"Five women and a child from one family, and four women and two children from another family were killed in the blast," the Helmand governor's spokesman, Daud Ahmadi, told AFP.

Ahmadi later clarified that eight women, not nine, were killed, along with two children aged seven to 12, and a third child under seven.

He identified a 12th victim as a young man in his 20s who was driving the minibus.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but Ahmadi blamed enemies of Afghanistan for the blast, a term used by Afghan officials to refer to Taliban insurgents.

Farid Ahmad Farhang, Helmand police spokesman, confirmed the death toll.

Roadside bomb attacks are the weapon of choice for Taliban insurgents fighting to overthrow the Western-backed government of President Hamid Karzai.

Explosives are frequently planted to target NATO and government forces, but civilians are often the victims.

The United Nations says that of the 1,145 civilians killed in the war in the first six months of this year, 80 percent were killed by insurgents and more than half by roadside bombs.

The US-led NATO force has 112,579 troops left in Afghanistan helping the government to fight the Taliban, according to its website. The Pentagon said last week that there are 77,000 US troops in the country.