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Explosion kills 13 at Afghan bazaar

KABUL, Afghanistan — Assailants set off a bomb blast Wednesday in a village bazaar in the troubled Helmand province, killing 13 people and wounding four dozen others, provincial officials said.

The bomb, which police said was hidden on a bicycle, targeted farmers who had gathered to receive Western-provided agricultural seeds, a program meant to encourage them to grow crops other than opium poppies.

Taliban militants were suspected in the attack.

The explosion took place in the district of Nahr-e-Sarraj, not far from the scene of a major offensive in February by thousands of U.S. Marines in the town of Marja.

The attack underscored the difficulty of that mission's central aim: to establish security and governance in Helmand, one of the insurgency's main strongholds.

Daoud Ahmadi, a spokesman for the provincial governor, confirmed a death toll of 13. Police said eight of the 45 injured were children.

There was no claim of responsibility for the attack, but Afghanistan's Interior Ministry ascribed it to "the enemies of the country," a phrase it usually employs to describe the insurgency.

NATO's International Security Assistance Force said it had dispatched a patrol to assist Afghan authorities.

The attack came as attention focused on NATO's next target, the city of Kandahar, the main metropolis of Afghanistan's south. Kandahar province borders Helmand. Together, they are considered the Taliban heartland.

Lawmakers reject vote panel decree

Afghan lawmakers Wednesday overwhelmingly rejected President Hamid Karzai's attempts to take control of the independent election panel that uncovered widespread fraud in last year's presidential vote. Six weeks after Karzai issued a controversial decree giving himself complete power to choose all five members of the Electoral Complaints Commission, Afghanistan's lower house sought to strip the president of his new powers. Officials said Karzai was infuriated by the legislative rebuff and viewed the move as illegal.

McClatchy Newspapers

Explosion kills 13 at Afghan bazaar 03/31/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 31, 2010 11:23pm]
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