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KABUL: A huge roadside bomb ripped through a minibus carrying guests to a wedding party in Afghanistan yesterday, killing at least 15 people and wounding 18 others, police said.
Most of the victims were women and children in the attack that took place in the northern province of Balkh, in the district of Dawlat Abad around 40 kilometres (25 miles) from the provincial capital Mazar-i-Sharif.
All the victims were civilians and mostly they were women and children,” the police spokesman for Balkh, Shir Jan Durrani, said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but similar attacks are usually blamed on Taliban insurgents fighting to overthrow the Western-backed government of President Hamid Karzai.
Taliban attacks tend to be focused in the south and east of the country, with the north escaping the worst of an insurgency that has raged for 11 years since the Islamists were ousted from power in a US-led invasion.
But parts of Balkh province, including the area around Dawlat Abad, have seen an increase in Taliban activity in recent years despite the presence of more than 100,000 Nato troops in the country.
Afghan weddings are often lavish affairs, drawing hundreds of relatives and guests from far afield in the war-torn land, and guests have in the past been hit by similar tragedies.
The United Nations says 1,145 civilians were killed in the war in the first six months of this year, blaming 80 percent of the deaths on insurgents, with more than half caused by roadside bombs.
Last year as a whole, a record 3,021 civilians died in the war, the United Nations has said.
The UN blamed insurgents for 80 percent of the civilian casualties in 2012, saying pro-government forces, which include Nato, were responsible for 10 percent of the incidents.
Women and children accounted for about 30 percent of this year’s casualties, again mostly victims of roadside bombs.
The improvised explosive devices, are also responsible for a large percentage of the deaths among the US-led Nato force helping fight the Taliban.
The foreign combat troops are due to withdraw by the end of 2014 and there are fears that the Taliban will extend their activities across wider swathes of the country against ill-prepared Afghan forces.
Several analysts, including Candace Rondeaux of the International Crisis Group and Gilles Dorronsoro of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace have predicted a government collapse and a new civil war.
This sort of forecast contrasts sharply with predictions by the Nato military and Western governments keen to get out of an unpopular war that Afghan forces will be able to defend the country after 2014.