LASHKAR GAH (Dispatches) – Twenty-three civilians and two Taliban militants were killed during a mortar shell attack and an ensuing car bomb explosion in a local bazaar in Afghanistan’s southern province of Helmand on Monday, a provincial government spokesman said.
"Taliban militants fired mortars on an army camp in Sangin district of Helmand province at round 9:30 am local time. Several mortars missed the target and struck a local bazaar,” spokesman Omar Zwak told Xinhua.
"One mortar struck a car bomb at a shop that has been used by Taliban for making car bombs, setting off an explosion,” he said.
At least 15 civilians were wounded as a result of the mortar shelling and the explosion in the restive district.
Earlier reports said 10 civilians were killed and 15 wounded in the deadly attack.
Kabul and Taliban blame each other for the rain of rockets.
Zwak denied Taliban’s claimed that the mortar rounds were fired by Afghan army personnel.
Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, a Taliban spokesman, said the Afghan army had fired several rounds of mortars on civilian houses and the market.
A government statement denied a narrative of that sort.
Khushakyar, identified by a single name, said he was trying to sell a calf when the rockets hit the market. He said his two nephews were killed and his son was wounded.
"I saw around 20 bodies on the ground,” he said, adding that dozens were wounded and "livestock lay dead next to men.”
Some local residents said the shelling occurred during fierce clashes between the Taliban militants and security forces in residential areas surrounding the market.
Violence has surged despite a deal in February between the Taliban and the United States. Official data shows Taliban bombings and other assaults have increased 70 percent since the militant group signed the deal with Washington.