Taliban attacks leave 17 civilians dead in Afghanistan

HERAT, Afghanistan - At least 17 civilians have been killed in multiple Taliban attacks in Afghanistan, officials said Saturday, underscoring increasing insecurity for ordinary people as foreign forces complete their withdrawal next year.

An insurgent attack on a road construction workers' camp in Karukh district in the western province of Herat left nine workers dead overnight.

"The Taliban attacked their camp along the Herat-Badghis road while they were asleep last," Abdul Rauf Ahmadi, provincial police spokesman, told AFP.

The workers were employed by a government-owned road construction company, he said.

A provincial governor spokesman confirmed the deaths, blaming "enemies of Afghanistan", a term used to refer to the Taliban.

A roadside bomb also killed five civilians, including women and children, and wounded three others in the southern province of Helmand province on Saturday morning.

"A van hit a roadside bomb in the Marjah district of Helmand killing five civilians and wounding three," Omar Zwak, the Helmand governor's spokesman, told AFP.

They were on their way to Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital, for shopping, he said.

Also in Helmand, an IED (improvised explosive device) killed three women in Musa Qala district on Friday, a police spokesman said.

IEDs are the Taliban's weapon of choice in their battle against the US-backed government and foreign forces, but they often kill and wound civilians.

According to recent United Nations report, civilian casualties in the Afghan war rose 23 per cent in the first half of this year due to Taliban attacks and increased fighting between insurgents and government forces.

The increase reversed a decline in 2012 and raised questions about how Afghan troops can protect civilians as US-led NATO soldiers withdraw from the 12-year war.

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said 1,319 civilians died and 2,533 were injured as a result of the war from January 1 to June 30, up 23 per cent on the same period in 2012.