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Roadside bomb kills 17 Afghan villagers

KABUL -- A roadside bomb struck a motorcycle-drawn cart carrying women and children between two villages yesterday in western Afghanistan, killing all 17 people on board, a grim reminder of the dangers facing Afghan civilians ahead of the 2014 withdrawal of foreign combat troops.

International troops already have pulled back into a largely advisory and training role as they try to prepare Afghan soldiers and police to take over their own security. But the effort has been marred by a series of attacks by Afghan troops or insurgents disguised in their uniforms.

In the latest so-called insider attack, an Afghan soldier opened fire on Slovakian troops in the southern city of Kandahar, killing one and wounding six others.

The roadside bomb that struck the cart was aimed at stopping a joint patrol of Afghan soldiers and police that was pursuing a group of Taliban militants in the western province of Herat, police Lt. Sher Agha said. But the bomb exploded next to the cart carrying the villagers, killing 12 women, four children and a man, Agha said.

Another roadside bomb exploded near a taxi in the southern province of Helmand, killing three civilians and wounding two, provincial government spokesman Ummar Zawaq said.

President Hamid Karzai issued a plea to the Taliban to respect the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which begins today in Afghanistan. But the Taliban quickly rejected Karzai's plea, saying that for them, jihad, or holy war, is an even greater obligation during Ramadan. -- AP

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