Bomb kills seven in Afghan market

A remotely-detonated bomb ripped through a bazaar in northwestern Afghanistan on Monday, killing seven civilians, including a provincial councillor, and injuring eight other people, police said.

The blast in Ghormach district in the province of Faryab was the latest in a string of deadly bombings and suicide attacks since Taliban insurgents announced the start of their spring offensive earlier this month.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility but similar attacks in the past have been blamed on the Taliban, which has waged a 10-year insurgency aimed at toppling Kabul's US-backed government.

"A remote-controlled bomb planted by the terrorists and enemies of Afghanistan... detonated today before noon when our countrymen were busy shopping in the market," a statement from the interior ministry said.

"As a result of the incident, seven civilians were killed, including provincial council member Amanullah Shahabzai, and eight other civilians were wounded."

Now in its 11th year, the Taliban-led insurgency has expanded to most of the country from traditional strongholds in southern and eastern Afghanistan along the rugged border with Pakistan.

The annual spring offensive is launched as the weather conditions improve, providing the rebels easier passage between battlegrounds in Afghanistan and their hideouts in Pakistan's lawless tribal regions.

There are about 130,000 US-led NATO troops in Afghanistan helping defend the government of President Hamid Karzai, but they are set to withdraw by the end of 2014, leaving security responsibilities to Afghan forces.

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