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Security situation 'very volatile'
Responsibility for the security of Lashkar Gah was handed to Afghan forces last year but the capital of war-torn Helmand Province remains highly volatile and dangerous.
The city and its surrounding districts have borne the brunt of numerous deadly attacks since British forces were first deployed to the area in spring 2006.
Six years on, the strength of the Taliban and the corruption and incompetence among the Afghan army and police remain serious issues.
Set in southern Helmand, the scene of some of the British Army's bloodiest battles, the urban centre Lashkar Gah has been hit hard by insurgent activity and violence.
Security was said to have improved significantly in the run-up to July's milestone transfer of control.
But the handover came days after seven Afghan police officers were killed by one of their colleagues at a nearby checkpoint.
The bloodshed has continued, with car bomb attacks, IED explosions and small arms fire.
Last year, on September 28, eight Afghan policemen were killed just a day after two civilians died when a suicide bomber rammed an explosives-packed vehicle into a police truck.
Experts warned the security situation was unlikely to improve in the foreseeable future.
Dr Razaq Raj, a senior lecturer at Leeds Metropolitan University, suggested the most recent attack could be a form of reprisals following the burning of Korans by US soldiers at the Bagram air base last month.
"There is a very volatile security situation which is not going to improve overnight," the terror expert said.
"Things are going to get worse before they are going to get better."
And he said problems could not be solved without "strategic dialogue".
"I think the situation is very bad and there is a danger it might go back to the situation that we had around six years ago," he added.
"I think what people are looking for is an apology (in response to the Koran burning) and it has not come as it should have done."
Gareth Price, senior research fellow on the Asia Programme at Chatham House, suggested Tuesday's devastating explosion could have been designed to send a message to the Afghans warning that the national army could not necessarily guarantee their safety in the war-stricken region.
And he questioned the success of the build up of the Afghan National Army.
"This was like an unlucky bomb that managed to kill so many people," he added.
"The dangers from IEDs and bombs are going to remain."
But professor Anthony Glees, director of the centre for security and intelligence studies at the University of Buckingham, suggested there was room for cautious optimism.
"These terrible deaths could appear a massive setback," he said.
"The fact that these people were killed by an IED might suggest not just that this is a very dangerous place but that the Afghans aren't particularly good at delivering security."
However, he said there was a feeling on the ground that the situation was "quite positive" and moves by the Taliban towards negotiations were a "sign they know they can't win".
"Paradoxically, the security situation isn't so bad even though this is a terrible tragedy," he added.
"In Lashkar Gah, the feeling there is that our forces aren't particularly vulnerable... obviously it is still very dangerous but it would be wrong to conclude from this single incident that the Taliban are on the up."