Afghanistan car bomb and mortar attacks kill 23 at busy market

A car bombing and mortar shells fired at a busy market in Afghanistan have killed 23 people, including children, officials say.

Both the Taliban and the Afghan military blamed each other for the attack in Sangin district of Helmand province, in the country’s south.

The area is under Taliban control, meaning it is remote and inaccessible to reporters and that details of the reported attack could not be independently confirmed.

There was no claim of responsibility for the attack and a statement announcing the news from the office of the governor, Gen Mohammad Yasin, did not provide further details.

Taliban spokesman Qari Yusouf Ahmadi denied the group was involved in the bombing.

He claimed the military fired mortars into the market, while the military said a car bomb and mortar shells fired by the insurgents targeted the civilians.

The army added that there was no military activity in the area on Monday and that two Taliban fighters were also killed when the car bomb detonated at the marketplace.

Livestock being sold by locals at the market, including sheep and goats, were also killed.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani strongly condemned the “brutal and inhumane act” in a statement.

He said targeting civilians, especially children and adults, was against Islamic and human values.

“The government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan once again calls on the Taliban to refrain from war and violence and to accept the will of the Afghan people, which is the end of the war and the start of negotiations,” he said.

The United Nations has recently asked both sides in the conflict to be more careful of civilian casualties, saying they are on the increase.

But violence has continued unabated in the country, despite planned talks between the Taliban and Kabul representatives from as early next month in Doha, Qatar, where the Taliban maintain a political office.

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