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Mortar attack on Afghan market kills at least 23; Taliban, government blame each other

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani at the 2014 London Conference on Afghanistan, co-hosted by the governments of the UK and Afghanistan. (DFID - UK Department for International Development/Released)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

A mortar attack on a market in southern Afghanistan has killed at least 23 people and injured dozens of others.

A spokesman for the governor of the southern province of Helmand said the June 29 attack occurred close to a cattle market and that children were among the dead.

The spokesman immediately pinned the attack on the Taliban, which in turn blamed the government.

While violence had dropped across much of the country after the Taliban offered a brief cease-fire to mark the Eid al-Fitr festival last month, officials say the insurgents have stepped up attacks in recent weeks.

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President Ashraf Ghani on June 29 urged the Taliban to “refrain from war and violence and to accept the will of the Afghan people,” which he said wants the government and the militant group to start much-delayed talks aimed at ending the war in the country.

Save The Children, an international nongovernmental organization, said it was “horrified by the ongoing attacks in Afghanistan, which continue to take the innocent lives of children.”

Country director Milan Dinic in a statement called the latest attack a “sad reminder that no child is safe in Afghanistan until the weapons are put down.”

On June 28, a roadside bomb killed at least six civilians and wounded two others in the same province.