March 18, 2015 / 8:34 AM / 3 years ago

Seven killed in Helmand blast amid Afghan forces offensive

LASHKAR GAH, Afghanistan (Reuters) - Seven people were killed and 20 wounded on Wednesday when a truck exploded outside the governor’s compound in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province, officials said, amid a major operation by Afghan forces to clear Taliban fighters.

Men transport the victim of a suicide attack from the scene in Lashkar Gah, Helmand province, March 18, 2015. REUTERS/ Stringer

The explosives had been loaded onto a small truck that was parked outside the compound in Lashkar Gah, Helmand’s capital, said Farid Ahmad Obaidi, a spokesman for Helmand’s police chief.

It was the second major attack in the Lashkar Gah area this month after seven people were killed and more than 20 wounded in a suicide bombing at a checkpoint on March 10.

Afghan security forces launched Operation Zulfiqar in mid-February to clear the province of Taliban fighters, just weeks ahead of the first fighting season that Afghan forces will face alone after most foreign troops withdrew in December.

On Sunday, the government said Afghan forces killed 10 insurgents in Helmand who had claimed to be fighting with the Islamic State (IS), including one militant who officials said was the de-facto leader of the IS group in the province.

Reporting by Mohammad Stanekzai in Lashkar Gah and Mirwais Harooni in Kabul; Writing by Krista Mahr; Editing by Jeremy Laurence

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