KABUL — At least 22 civilians were killed when two suicide bombers struck at a bazaar in Afghanistan’s southern Kandahar province Wednesday, officials said.
The attack also wounded more than 50 civilians, said Ahmad Javed Faisal, a spokesman for Kandahar’s governor. The market, on the main highway leading to Pakistan, is often used as a resting spot or parking lot for drivers carrying supplies for U.S. and other NATO troops based in Afghanistan. The drivers also deliver to a U.S. base in southern Afghanistan, further down the road.
Some of the drivers were among the casualties, a provincial official said by phone.
The target of the attack was not clear. Faisal said no Afghan or international troops were at the market at the time.
Taliban-led insurgents have often targeted convoys ferrying goods for foreign troops. A Taliban spokesman said the bazaar attack was carried out by Islamist insurgents, whose goal is to drive foreign forces out of Afghanistan. But he denied the civilian losses in the bombings, saying all those killed were foreign troops.
The attacks were the bloodiest in weeks in Afghanistan, where overall levels of violence have dropped compared with the same period last year, and coincided with a helicopter crash that killed two NATO troops in the eastern part of the country.
NATO said the cause of the crash is being investigated. The alliance’s statement did not identify the dead or the type of helicopter.
Separately, there were conflicting accounts about the killing of civilians in a NATO-led airstrike overnight in Logar province, south of Kabul.
The Associated Press reported that one of its photographers saw the bodies of five women, seven children and six men piled into vans and driven to the provincial capital in protest of the strike. Raees Khan Abdul Rahimzai, the deputy provincial police chief, estimated that the vans were carrying 18 bodies, including women and children, and said seven key local Taliban officials were killed in the strike, according to AP.
Maj. Martyn Crighton, a NATO spokesman, said the coalition was aware of the allegations of civilian fatalities but did not have any reports of civilians killed, according to AP.