Bicycle Rigged as Bomb Kills 7 In Afghan Provincial Capital

A few miles away from where Marines battled sporadically with Taliban insurgents hidden in protected bunkers, a bicycle rigged as a bomb exploded in a bazaar here in the capital of Helmand Province, killing 7 people and wounding 14.

The explosion in the center of the city was a terrifying reminder of the continuing vulnerability of civilians in Helmand as American, Afghan and British soldiers waged sporadic gun battles on the 11th day of an offensive against the Taliban stronghold in Marja, a town a few miles away.

Several of those who lost relatives had recently fled Marja for what they believed would be the safety of the provincial capital. Rahmatullah Khan 30, was one of them.

“We actually escaped from Marja, and we thought this place would be safe,” he said. “But what happened, my cousin was killed and my brother had serious injuries inflicted and is now admitted to the emergency hospital.

“This is not a country,” he continued. “Actually this is a hell for us. Every day our people are burning, sometimes killed by I.E.D.’s and sometimes killed by foreign troops and sometimes killed by Taliban,” he said, referring to the homemade bombs that the military calls improvised explosive devices, which are the leading cause of allied casualties.

“We actually don’t know what’s going on in our country,” he said. “Why they are fighting? With whom are they fighting? And it is poor people who receive the casualties. They should fight each other. Why are they killing civilians?”

Muhammad Naseem, 26, a mechanic who lost his brother in Tuesday’s explosion in Lashkar Gah, arrived from Marja just before the Marine offensive began. “We thought this place will be safe, but here lies my brother Nazar Muhammad,” Mr. Naseem said.

A NATO service member died in southern Afghanistan on Tuesday when a bomb exploded nearby. A military spokesman said the explosion was unrelated to the offensive under way in Helmand.
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