KABUL (RPRN) 8/13/2009–Afghan officials say two bomb blasts in southern Afghanistan have killed at least 14 civilians, including three children, as militant attacks increase ahead of presidential elections next week. An official said Thursday the first bomb ripped through a vehicle in the Gereshk district of Helmand province Wednesday, killing 11 members of one family.Â He says only a young girl survived.
Meanwhile, officials said three young boys in neighboring Kandahar province died after a recently planted roadside bomb exploded while they were playing.
Both blasts have been blamed on Taliban militants, who have vowed to disrupt the August 20 elections.
The latest violence comes as U.S. Marines and Afghan soldiers are pressing on with an offensive aimed at securing parts of the south ahead of next week’s vote.
Four-hundred U.S. troops and 100 Afghan soldiers stormed into southern Helmand province’s Nawzad district Wednesday to oust Taliban insurgents.
U.S. defense spokesman warned there will be more similar operations in the coming days.
The offensives are part of a new strategy announced by U.S. President Barack Obama, which calls for international and Afghan troops to secure more parts of the country, and then stay in those areas to keep the Taliban out.
U.S. officials say they want to make sure the Independent Election Commission and Afghan forces “have the security to do their jobs.”
In other violence Wednesday, a roadside bomb seriously wounded two Associated Press journalists (Indonesian Andi Jatmiko and Spaniard Emilio Morenatti) embedded with the U.S. military in southern Afghanistan.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists condemned the attack and said it highlights the dangers journalists face in covering the escalating conflict in Afghanistan.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.