A suicide bomber detonated a vehicle laden with explosives outside a bank in Afghanistan’s Helmand province Saturday, killing soldiers on their way to pick up their salaries and civilians, the latest incident in spreading violence in the country.

At least 20 people, including both army troops and civilians, were wounded in the strike that happened outside a branch of the New Kabul Bank in Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital of restive Helmand province.

The chief spokesman for the Defense Ministry, Dawlat Waziri, in Kabul said five of the 12 killed were soldiers. A Health Ministry official said seven civilians also perished in the attack.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, part of spiraling violence that has hit various parts of Afghanistan in recent harsh days of winter, a season when fighting usually subsides in the country.

Helmand is the hub of Afghanistan’s illegal drug industry and part of the main bastion of Taliban insurgents. The United States has pledged to send several hundred extra troops in the spring, when violence usually increases.


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Featured image courtesy of AFP.