A landmine left over from decades of conflict in Afghanistan has killed 10 girls as they collected firewood in the east of the country.
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http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-12-1...rewood/4432636 Photo: Afghan volunteers carry the body one of girls killed in the blast. (AFP: Noorullah Shirzada)
Officials say the girls, aged between nine and 11, were collecting wood in remote Chaparhar district, near the border with Pakistan, which is infested with some of the world's most dangerous militant groups.
Chaparhar district governor Mohammad Sediq Dawlatzai told AFP they accidentally struck the mine with an axe.
"An old mine left over from the time of the jihad [against Soviet troops in the 1980s] exploded, killing 10 girls and wounding two others," he said.
Nangarhar provincial government spokesman Ahmad Zia Abdulzai said, however, that the mine was planted by "the enemies of Afghanistan" - a reference to the Taliban - even if it had been in that spot for some time.
Despite international clearance efforts, more than three decades of war have left Afghanistan one of the most heavily-mined countries in the world.
The explosives were placed during three recent conflicts: the 1980s war against the Soviets, the 1990s civil war, and during fighting between the Northern Alliance and the Taliban before they were ousted from power in 2001.
The Taliban now plant bombs, or improvised explosive devices, to target Afghan troops and their NATO backers, but these regularly kill civilians.
Women and children are often the victims of the war between the Taliban and US-led NATO and Afghan forces, now in its 11th year.
Many Afghans are growing increasingly worried the nation could face another civil war or a major Taliban push to regain power when most NATO combat troops withdraw by the end of 2014.
Meanwhile, a Taliban car bomb targeted a US company in Kabul on Monday, killing one person and wounding at least 15.
It was the most brazen assault targeting Westerners in the fortified Afghan capital since a suicide car bomber killed 12 people, including eight South Africans, on September 18.
A security source at the military contracting firm, Contrack, told AFP that five foreigners, including Americans and South Africans, were among the wounded, but police said only three foreigners were slightly injured, mainly by flying glass.
Police said it was not immediately clear whether anyone had been in the truck when the huge explosion occurred.
"A small truck packed with explosives detonated between Contrack and Najeeb Zarab factories - one person is dead and 15 others are wounded," Kabul police chief Mohammad Ayoub Salangi told AFP.
"We don't yet know whether there was someone in the truck or it was detonated remotely. They were very powerful explosives."
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was a suicide car bombing carried out by a "hero mujahid" on "an important American company which provided security services to the invading forces".