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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

Taliban suicide bomber kills six in Helmand as spring offensive begins

The attack on an army base killed four civilians and two soldiers

Afghan soldiers attend a graduation ceremony of Afghan National Army soldiers in Shorabak district of Helmand province, Afghanistan, 26 April 2018. A Taliban suicide bomber killed six at an army base in Helmand on Saturday. Watan Yar / EPA
Afghan soldiers attend a graduation ceremony of Afghan National Army soldiers in Shorabak district of Helmand province, Afghanistan, 26 April 2018. A Taliban suicide bomber killed six at an army base in Helmand on Saturday. Watan Yar / EPA

A Taliban suicide bomber attacked an army base in southern Helmand province Saturday killing four civilians and two soldiers, officials said.

Omar Zwak, spokesman for the provincial governor in Helmand, said three civilians and two soldiers were wounded in the attack in Nad Ali district. He said the bomber was a Taliban fighter who targeted the base using a mini-van, said Mr Zwak.

Maj. Abdul Qadeer Bahadorzai, the army corps commander's spokesman in the south, confirmed the attack. He said the death toll could change.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but Taliban insurgents announced the start of their annual spring offensive on Wednesday even as insurgents are already regularly launching attacks and battling security forces.

In another report, in eastern Nangarhar province five people were killed and 15 others wounded in separate attacks, said Attahullah Khogyani, spokesman for the provincial governor.

Mr Khogyani said among five dead there are three women; militants fired mortar shells striking a home in Goshta district. Three others, including two females and a small child, were wounded in the attack late Friday night.

Meanwhile, 12 people were wounded in an explosion in Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar, said Mr Khogyani. He said the victims were two traffic police and 10 civilians.

"Two wounded civilians are in critical condition," he said.

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No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks in Nangarhar, but the Taliban and Islamic State group are both active in eastern Afghanistan, particularly Nangarhar province.

The Taliban issued a statement Wednesday saying the "Al-Khandaq" offensive would make use of "new and intricate tactics" aimed at "crushing, killing and capturing American invaders and their supporters."

The onset of spring has traditionally brought an increase in violence in Afghanistan, as melting snows allow fighters to more easily traverse the mountainous terrain.

But in recent years the Taliban and an ISIS affiliate have carried out near-daily attacks year-round. The Taliban have seized control of districts across the country and regularly target Kabul, the capital.

The U.S. formally ended its combat mission in Afghanistan in 2014, but thousands of American troops remain in the country in a counterterrorism and support role. The Trump administration has sent thousands of additional troops to try to change the course of America's longest war.

Updated: April 28, 2018 04:13 PM

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