Kabul: The international Red Cross on Wednesday
warned of an increase in the number of Afghan armed groups
operating in the country as bombings killed three children and
a NATO soldier in separate attacks in southern Afghanistan.
NATO said the service member was killed in a blast
this morning in the south, while three boys, aged 10, 11 and
12 years, died in an explosion on the outskirts of Kandahar
city, according to Khan Mohammad Mujhid, the police chief in
Mujhid said a remote-controlled bomb, which was set up
on a bicycle, exploded in a parking lot that serves as a
gathering place for Afghans travelling to and from Saudi
Arabia for the annual Hajj pilgrimage.
"How could anyone attack this pilgrimage centre?"
asked Haji Alam, the father of two of the children who were
killed. "I don`t know how can a Muslim do that?"
NATO said the attack also seriously wounded nine
people, including two children and an Afghan policeman.
Tens of thousands of Afghan and NATO forces have been
deployed in the southern provinces of Kandahar and Helmand and
have been making progress in their battle against the Taliban.
Militants have responded with bomb attacks aimed at
threatening the population and preventing the government from
gaining the support of the people.
Fighting also has continued in eastern Afghanistan,
along the border with Pakistan, where the Haqqani network, a
Pakistan-based Taliban faction closely tied to al-Qaida, holds
The Red Cross has long been able to operate in even
the most dangerous areas of Afghanistan because of a
commitment to treat all comers and because of its ability to
negotiate access with the Taliban or other insurgent groups.
But a rise of small armed bands across the country has
made such negotiations more difficult, said Reto Stocker,
Afghanistan head for the International Committee of the Red
Cross or ICRC.
Often they don`t know who to talk with to ensure the
safety of their workers and the shifting security situation
makes it too dangerous to risk going into many areas, he said.
"In a growing number in areas of the country, we are
entering a new, rather murky period. We see that the
proliferation of armed groups threatens the ability of
humanitarian organisations to access those in need," Stocker
told reporters in the capital, Kabul.
In the past, Red Cross workers were able to get out to
areas where there had been clashes or violent incidents within
days. Now, sometimes it takes weeks or months, he said.
"Access for the ICRC has, over the last 30 years never
been as poor and difficult in Afghanistan," Stocker said.