KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, (Reuters) – A remote-controlled bomb exploded near families having a picnic in southern Afghanistan on Wednesday, killing at least 13 people and wounding about 40, NATO and Afghan officials said.
Earlier reports from the area said a suicide bomber on foot had caused the blast close to a group of local officials handing out seeds to villagers as part of a programme to dissuade people from growing opium poppy.
A NATO official and a spokesman for the provincial governor in Helmand said 13 people had been killed and between 40 and 45 were wounded.
The NATO official said a military helicopter had flown out wounded Afghans from the scene, some of whom later died of their injuries. He said the incident occurred in a district of Helmand province referred to as Nahr-e-Saraj or Gereshk.
In the past, the Taliban have claimed responsibility for many suicide attacks in Afghanistan, where they lead an insurgency against Afghan and foreign forces.
Last year, according to the United Nations, a record number of civilians were killed in the war, most in insurgent bomb attacks.
In February thousands of U.S. Marines led an offensive against the Taliban in Helmand, targeting the town of Marjah in NATO’s largest operation in Afghanistan to date.