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At least 35 dead in roadside bombing of bus in Afghanistan

A roadside bomb in Afghanistan has killed at least 35 people, including children, on a bus, including children. Another 27 people were injured.

Police say bomb was freshly planted by Taliban insurgents to target Afghan and foreign security forces

An Afghan man receives treatment at a hospital after a bus was hit by a roadside bomb in Herat province in western Afghanistan on Wednesday. (Jalil Ahmad/Reuters)

A roadside bomb in Afghanistan on Wednesday killed at least 35 people, including children, on a bus and injured 27, officials said.

Security has been deteriorating across Afghanistan this year, with the Taliban and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fighters mounting near-daily attacks on Afghan forces, government employees and civilians.

The blast on the main road linking the provincial capitals of Herat and Kandahar happened in the Ab Khorma area of Farah province, said provincial police spokesperson Mohibullah Mohib. Farah, who was on the border of Iran.

"The bomb was freshly planted by the Taliban insurgents to target Afghan and foreign security forces," he said, adding most of the dead or injured were women and children.

No militant group has claimed responsibility.

A Taliban official denied responsibility and said their fighters were not responsible for planting landmines in the area.

"The blast has not been conducted by the Taliban; we are investigating the incident," said spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid.

The blast comes ahead of the resumption of peace talks between U.S. officials and Taliban representatives, who are hoping to strike a deal on a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign forces in exchange for security guarantees by the Taliban.

But despite the talks, violence has been relentless.

New explosives increasing death toll

Government and aid officials say the number of people being killed and maimed is rising because of new explosives planted by the Taliban, who now control more territory than at any point since their ouster nearly 18 years ago.

According to the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS), more than 1,415 civilians were killed or injured by landmines and leftover ordnance in Afghanistan last year.

A senior official at UNMAS in Kabul said initial reports suggested a bomb with a pressure plate was used in the bus blast in Farah.

Afghans assist a wounded man in a hospital after the roadside bomb on the main highway between the western city of Herat and the southern city of Kandahar. (Hamed Sarfarazi/Associated Press)

"These are used by the anti-government groups to target convoys or control population movement. They are indiscriminate and currently inflict hundreds of civilian casualties," said Mohammad Wakil Jamshidi, deputy program manager at UNMAS.

"As peace negotiations continue, there is scope for the removal of these devices and other explosive ordnance to generate peace-building dividends."

In eastern Nangarhar province, on the border with Pakistan, clashes between the Taliban and Afghan forces on Wednesday caused civilian casualties.

Sohrab Qaderi, a member of Nangarhar's provincial council, said Afghan special forces conducted operations in the Gandumak area, which is under Taliban control.

"Two Taliban fighters and five civilians were killed."

At least 3,812 Afghan civilians were killed or wounded in the first half of 2019 in the war, with a big increase in the number of casualties caused by government and foreign forces, the United Nations said in a report published on Tuesday.

Afghan and foreign forces said civilians are hurt or killed during ground raids or airstrikes as insurgents use them as human shields.