Avalanches kill 29 in northeastern Afghanistan

AP , Thursday 19 Jan 2012

Avalanche kills 29 in north-east Afghanistan, and a suicide bomber kills 13 and wounds at least 22 others

 Avalanches have killed at least 29 people in Afghanistan's mountainous northeast as rescuers struggled to reach the worst-hit areas cut off by heavy snows, officials said.

The Afghan National Disaster Management Agency said Thursday that at least 40 more people have been injured in a series of avalanches since Monday in Badakhshan province.

Roads outside the provincial capital of Faizabad are blocked by at least 6 feet (2 meters) of snow, the agency said.

Afghanistan's harsh winters and mountainous terrain in the north make avalanches a danger each year. In February 2010, an avalanche killed at least 171 people near the Salang Pass, a major route through the Hindu Kush mountains that connects the capital of Kabul to the north of the country.

The NATO security force in Afghanistan said Thursday that one of its service members died after an explosion in southern Afghanistan on Wednesday. A coalition statement did not provide the nationality of the service member.

Thursday's statement did not provide any details of the attack, but NATO said on Wednesday night that dozens of civilians, coalition troops and Afghan security forces were killed and wounded when a suicide attacker blew himself up in a southern Afghanistan bazaar.

The attacker on a motorcycle killed 13 Afghans, including three policeman, and wounded at least 22 other people in Kajaki district of Helmand province, the provincial government said Thursday.

A statement released late Wednesday by NATO said that coalition troops had been among the casualties, but gave no further details about them.

NATO's top commander in the country, U.S. Gen. John Allen condemned the attack and said it was evidence that the Taliban insurgents had "declared outright war" on the Afghan people. He said that such violence "will only further isolate the Taliban from the process of peace negotiation."

The U.S. has been working to broker talks between the Taliban and President Hamid Karzai's government to end the 10-year war. The insurgents recently said they would open a political office in the Gulf state of Qatar to pursue negotiations but would also continue fighting.

The Taliban ruled all of Afghanistan for five years with a harsh interpretation of Islamic law that banned music, sports and made women virtual prisoners at home. The regime fell in 2001 in a U.S.-led intervention after the Taliban refused to hand over al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks

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