Afghanistan: Car bomb near stadium kills 13, says official

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A man carries a wounded boy in a hospital, after a car bombing outside a sports stadium in Lashkargah, capital city of southern Helmand province, Afghanistan, Friday, March 23, 2018. Provincial chief of police Abdul Ghafar Safi said the blast was carried

A man carries a wounded boy in a hospital, after a car bombing outside a sports stadium in Lashkargah, capital city of southern Helmand province, Afghanistan, Friday, March 23, 2018. Provincial chief of police Abdul Ghafar Safi said the blast was carried

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A car bombing outside a sports stadium in Afghanistan's southern Helmand province on Friday killed 13 people and wounded 40 others, an official said.

Aminullah Abed, the chief of the province's public health department, said the casualties were received at a hospital in the province's capital, Lashkar Gah, with six of the wounded in critical condition and many others burnt beyond recognition.

The explosion occurred after Afghan new year celebrations were winding down and revelers were on their way home, he added.

Omar Zwak, spokesman for the provincial governor, said 14 people were killed and 45 others wounded.

Provincial chief of police Abdul Ghafar Safi said the blast was carried out by a suicide bomber and that the target was civilians. No high ranking officials were present or harmed at the stadium, he added.

The office of Afghan president Ashraf Ghani issued a statement condemning the "brutal terrorist attack."

A wounded man gets off a vehicle in a hospital, after a car bombing outside a sports stadium in Lashkargah, capital city of southern Helmand province, Afghanistan, Friday, March 23, 2018.  Provincial chief of police Abdul Ghafar Safi said the blast was ca
A wounded man gets off a vehicle in a hospital, after a car bombing outside a sports stadium in Lashkargah, capital city of southern Helmand province, Afghanistan, Friday, March 23, 2018. Provincial chief of police Abdul Ghafar Safi said the blast was ca

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.

Both the Taliban and the Islamic State group, whose affiliate in Afghanistan has grown stronger since it emerged in 2014, have stepped up attacks recently, in what analysts say is a campaign of violence intended to undermine the U.S.-backed government.

On Jan. 27, a Taliban attacker drove an ambulance filled with explosives into the heart of the city, killing at least 103 people and wounding as many as 235.

The Taliban claimed the ambulance attack, as well as an attack a week earlier in which militants stormed a luxury hotel in Kabul, killing 22 people, including 14 foreigners, and setting off a 13-hour battle with security forces.

The recent attacks have underscored the weaknesses of Afghan security forces more than 16 years after the U.S.-led invasion toppled the Taliban.

They also raise questions about President Donald Trump's strategy for winning America's longest war, which was announced in August but has changed little on the ground. That strategy was based on ramping up military pressure on the Taliban to eventually force them into peace talks with the government.

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