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September 30, 2009

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Roadside bomb kills 30 in southern Afghanistan

A ROADSIDE bomb killed 30 people in southern Afghanistan yesterday, officials said.

The attack showed the rapidly worsening toll from bombs scattered across the country's highways by insurgents.

Ahmed Shah, 45, lying in a hospital in the southern city of Kandahar, said he was in a seat at the back of a crowded bus when it swerved off a road to avoid a crater left from another roadside bomb the previous day.

"Then there was this big blast. I don't know how many people were killed or wounded. I awoke myself in the hospital," he said, his face cut up by shrapnel wounds.

Outside the hospital, a middle-aged woman named Bibi Gul wailed at the loss of family members.

"Two of my brothers died, along with their wives," she said.

More than 1,500 civilians have been killed by violence in Afghanistan so far this year, the United Nations said last week.

It said 68 percent of the civilian killings were a result of militant attacks, while 23 percent were caused by Afghan and foreign troops led by NATO and the United States military.

Provincial government spokesman Zalmai Ayoubi said the bomb went off on a highway where an explosion had killed three civilians a day earlier. He blamed the Taliban for planting the devices.

Homemade bombs have become by far the deadliest weapon used by insurgents fighting Western and Afghan government forces, and civilians are frequently killed. The Taliban usually distance themselves from blasts when civilians are the victims.

Attacks by insurgents this year have been the deadliest since the war started in 2001.

The new commander of US and NATO forces, US Army General Stanley McChrystal, wrote in a confidential assessment last month that he needs more soldiers within a year or the war may be lost.

He has also called for a "cultural shift" in the way his 100,000 western soldiers operate, so that they can better protect civilians.

He submitted a request last Saturday for thousands more soldiers to the Pentagon, with US officials suggesting he is seeking tens of thousands more.

US President Barack Obama has said he will not take any decision until he re-evaluates the overall strategy for the region.

That has been held up by a disputed presidential election, which Obama says makes his decision more difficult.


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