An Afghan man who was injured in a suicide bomb attack receives medical treatment… (Mirwice Sahel / EPA )
Reporting from Islamabad, Pakistan and Kabul — A roadside bomb killed 22 people — many of them women and children — crammed into a minivan in western Afghanistan on Thursday, a grim reminder of the toll that the 10-year war against Taliban insurgents takes on Afghan civilians.
FOR THE RECORD: Afghanistan provinces:
An earlier version of this online article misidentified the names of two Afghanistan provinces. Gardez is the capital of Afghanistan's Paktia province, not Paktika, and the Obeh district is in the province of Herat, not Heart.
The blast was one of two that struck Afghan civilians Thursday morning in the Obeh district of the western province of Herat. A separate roadside bomb killed an Afghan woman and injured seven other people in a small Mazda truck, said Mohayuddin Noory, a spokesman for the Herat governor's office.
In a third attack Thursday morning, a suicide bomber rammed a truck filled with explosives into the entrance of a heavily guarded U.S. base for military and civilian operations in Gardez, the capital of the eastern province of Paktia, killing two Afghan security guards. Nine Afghan civilian laborers were injured in that attack, said Rohullah Samoon, spokesman for the Paktika governor's office.
The base is one of several provincial reconstruction team centers scattered throughout Afghanistan that provide Afghan government officials with guidance on local development and rebuilding projects. The PRT base at Gardez was the program's first, and there are now more than 20 PRT facilities in the country.
The Afghan Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in Gardez. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said the attack killed 27 soldiers and wounded 34 others, though insurgents usually exaggerate the number of people killed and wounded in attacks they carry out.
Noory said the minivan was on its way to a local bazaar when the roadside bomb detonated, killing everyone inside. Traffic to the bazaar had increased recently as locals begin their shopping in preparation for the Eid holidays at the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Noory said. President Hamid Karzai issued a statement condemning the attacks in Herat, saying the militants "should understand that, by committing crimes such as this in the month of Ramadan, they will win nothing but hatred from the poor families of this country."
Afghan civilians have borne the brunt in the ongoing war between Western and Afghan troops and Taliban insurgency, with most civilian deaths being caused by Taliban militants.
In the first half of the year, 1,462 Afghan civilians died, a 15% jump compared to the same period in 2010, according to U.N. statistics. One of the primary factors in that increase, U.N. officials said, was the militants' heavier reliance on improvised explosive devices, or homemade bombs. Four-fifths of the civilian deaths in the first half of the year were caused by insurgents, the U.N. said. The bombs, often buried in dirt roads, are equipped with sensitive pressure plates that can be triggered by the weight of a passer-by.
Staff writer Alex Rodriguez reported from Islamabad, and special correspondent Hashmat Baktash reported from Kabul, Afghanistan. Special correspondent Aimal Yaqubi in Kabul contributed to this report.