30 killed as mortar barrage hits village in Afghanistan

Kabul: About 30 civilians were killed and scores wounded after a mortar barrage hit a village in southern Afghan province of Helmand overnight, authorities said Thursday.

"At least 30 civilians, including several women and children were killed, and dozens others wounded after several rounds of mortar struck houses in Mayyan Dazu village (in Sangin district) Wednesday night," Xinhua quoted a provincial official as saying.

Majority of the victims were from a house where a wedding party was underway, he said, adding "the incident took place during a fighting between security forces and Taliban insurgents".

Local sources said that more than 40 people sustained injuries and the wounded were shifted to hospitals in provincial capital of Lashkar Gah. "The number of casualties may go up as many injured remained in critical condition," the source said.

The Sangin district, which is located in northern part of Lashkar Gah, has been the scene of fierce fighting between the Taliban and Afghan security forces over the past couple of months after the NATO-led forces withdrew from the district.

Helmand is notorious for poppy growing and is a known Taliban hotbed. The US and NATO-led troops will switch from combat to support role later Thursday, which will focus on training, advising and assisting Afghan forces, and nearly 13,000 foreign forces will be involved in the mission.

The day also marks the transition of full security charges from foreign forces to Afghan security forces. More than 3,180 civilians were killed and nearly 6,430 others wounded in conflicts and Taliban-led attacks from Jan 1 to Nov 30, 2014, according to official figures released by UN mission in the country.

The officials blamed the attacks of Taliban insurgents and other armed groups for vast majority of the civilian deaths and injuries.

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