Kandahar blast: Death toll rises to 16

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An Afghan official says that at least 16 people, including four members of the security forces, died when a container full of explosives went off in the city of Kandahar.

"The latest figures show 16 dead and 38 wounded people brought to the hospital". He said that more than 30 others had so far been wounded, including several children, and that more casualties were arriving. Security forces were trying to defuse an explosives-laden van in the southern Kandahar province at the time of the blast.

The blast was so powerful that the majority of the casualties were passers-by outside the cleared area.

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Meanwhile, a local official who requested anonymity, told Xinhua that the security forces tried to intercept a suicide bomber setting in a minibus after intelligence reports found the terrorist, but the man detonated his vehicle causing the explosion.

The blast comes as the Taliban step up their spring offensive across the war-torn country.

No group immediately claimed responsibility.

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Arif Noori, spokesman for the provincial governor, said a large Taliban force, armed with heavy weapons, attacked government positions in five districts of the province late on Monday, with fighting continuing until dawn.

On Monday, the Taliban warned Kabul residents to avoid "military centres" in the heavily fortified city, saying they are planning more attacks in the Afghan capital.

The latest fighting coincided with a US government report that found few signs of progress this year, with fighting spreading and hundreds of casualties from militant attacks.

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