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Vehicle bomb kills at least 20 in Afghanistan

Vehicle bomb kills at least 20 in Afghanistan”

At least 60 people were wounded in the attack outside the New Kabul Bank branch and most of the casualties were civilians, Hayaullah Hayat said.

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"Around 12 noon a auto bomb exploded at the entrance of New Kabul Bank", Salam Afghan, a police spokesman in the city, told AFP.

Provincial police chief general Agha Noor Kentoz says the attacker struck on Thursday in Lashkargah, the provincial capital.

The insurgents, believed to control almost 80 percent of the province's countryside, have increasingly been pressing a push onto Lashkar Gah and its environs in efforts to take the city.

A spokesman for the president said the enemy after "facing defeat in the battlefield is now targeting the civilians".

Officials said military personnel and civilians had converged at the bank to draw salaries ahead of Eid when the vehicle bomb was detonated.

Last month, armed militants stormed NKB branch in southeastern Paktia province leaving at least three people.

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There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack but insurgent groups, including the Taliban, have in the past targeted banks where police, soldiers and other government employees collect their pay. Intensified fighting past year forced thousands of people to flee to Lashkargah from neighbouring districts.

The U.S.is expected to deploy in additional 4,000 U.S. troops to join the 8,400 already in Afghanistan. Witnesses said children were among the dozens wounded.

Meanwhile, the United States is mulling sending 4,000-5,000 more soldiers to Afghanistan, to join the 8,400 already posted in the war-torn country. They mainly serve as trainers and advisers.

Earlier this month, US Defense Secretary James Mattis acknowledged that the US still was "not winning" the war in Afghanistan even though it toppled the Taliban 16 years ago.

US media have reported that Mattis will recommend sending another 3,000-5,000 troops to break what he has called a "stalemate" between government forces and the Taliban.

However, he also promised "constructive and good relations with you and the world" once "your illegitimate occupation of Afghanistan comes to an end".

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