UK & World News
Afghan Landmine Blast Kills 10 Young Girls
Ten young girls have been killed by a landmine explosion in eastern Afghanistan, officials say.
The children were collecting firewood when one of them accidentally struck the mine with an axe, according to Chapahar district governor Mohammad Seddiq Dawlatzai.
The victims were aged nine to 13. Two other girls were critically injured and are being treated in hospital.
"An old mine left over from the time of the jihad (against Soviet troops in the 1980s) exploded, killing 10 girls and wounding two others," Mr Dawlatzai said.
However police chief General Abdullah Stanikzai said Taliban insurgents were to blame.
Since 1989, when the Soviets withdrew after a 10-year military occupation, nearly 700,000 mines and more than 15m other explosives left over from decades of war have been destroyed, according to UN figures.
But despite international clearance efforts, more than three decades of war have left Afghanistan one of the most heavily-mined countries in the world.
The explosives were laid during three recent conflicts: the 1980s war against the Russians, the 1990s civil war, and during fighting between the Northern Alliance and the Taliban before they were ousted from power in 2001.
The Taliban also plant bombs, or improvised explosive devices, to target Afghan and Nato troops but these regularly kill civilians.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has repeatedly appealed to the insurgents as well as the Nato-led forces in Afghanistan to avoid civilian casualties.
In the first six months of 2012, 1,145 Afghan civilians were killed and around 2,000 wounded, mostly by roadside bombs.
Women and children account for about 30% of this year's casualties.
Meanwhile there are reports that one person has been killed and at least 30 injured in a blast in the capital Kabul.
It happened outside the compound of US military contractor Contrack. Afghan police say the attacker drove a car packed with explosives into the compound's wall.