Two car bombs exploded minutes apart in a popular picnic area in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar on Friday evening, killing nine people and wounding more than 50.
The target of the attack was a convoy of police vehicles, officials said, but many of the victims were local residents who had gathered in the area at the end of the Friday holiday to eat and socialize.
“There were two vehicle IEDs (improvised explosive devices),” Javed Faisal, spokesman for the Kandahar provincial governor, told AFP. “Nine people are dead, including three policemen, and more than 50 people are wounded.”
He said seven police were among the injured, but the other dead and wounded were local people, many of them children.
The blast occurred in Aino Mina, a sprawling housing development on the outskirts of Kandahar that was conceived in 2002 and built by investors including President Hamid Karzai’s businessman brother Mahmoud Karzai.
Kandahar, one of the most volatile and lawless cities in Afghanistan, was the birthplace of the Taliban movement in the 1990s and it remains a hotbed of the Taliban insurgency against President Karzai’s U.S.-backed government.
The Kandahar media centre said the bombs were planted in two Toyota Corolla cars and had been detonated at about 7:30 pm (1500 GMT).
It said police and emergency services treated wounded people at the scene.
Kandahar police chief Abdul Raziq confirmed the incident and the death toll of nine.
The attack came a day after a suicide car bomb hit a foreign military convoy in Kabul, killing 15 people including six Americans.
The Taliban launched their annual “spring offensive” on April 27, opening a key period as Afghan security forces take the lead in offensives against the insurgents.
All NATO combat missions will finish in Afghanistan by the end of 2014 and foreign troops have already begun to withdraw from the battlefield as Afghan police and army take over the fight against the insurgents.
More than 11 years after the Taliban regime was ousted in 2001, efforts to seek a political settlement ending the violence have so far made little progress, but pressure is growing ahead of the NATO withdrawal.