Kandahar: Up to five bombs killed nine people, mostly children, exploding in quick succession as crowds gathered on Wednesday in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, officials said.
It was the second consecutive evening that explosions rocked the city, which the Taliban, masterminds of a nine-year insurgency against the Western-backed government, consider their stronghold.
Control of Kandahar is seen as crucial to the efforts by more than 152,000 US-led foreign troops to reverse the Taliban insurrection to an extent that would allow American forces to start withdrawing from Afghanistan next year.
"There were five explosions. When the first explosion happened, people and police went to the area. It was followed by a second, by a third and up to five explosions," said Kandahar provincial government spokesman Zalmai Ayoubi.
"In total, nine people were killed, including one policeman. Eight are children and 26 other people are wounded, most of them civilians," he said.
The spokesman said the explosions were caused by bombs planted on the roadside at a busy junction in the southern neighbourhood of Dura-e-Panjwayi, about five km from the city centre.
A witness also confirmed hearing up to five blasts, the first attracting a crowd who rushed to see if they could help, before the others went off.
The casualty statistics were confirmed by Abdul Qayoum Pukhla, head of the Kandahar public health department.
"Among the wounded are four policemen and eight children. Eight of the wounded are in a critical condition," he said.
Local radio and television stations put out urgent appeals for residents to donate blood to help treat the casualties.
Dozens of people descended on Mirwais hospital in response to the request, a report said.
Although there was no immediate claim of responsibility, the Taliban have been blamed for bombings targeting the government in Kandahar, which has seen a marked increase in violence in recent years.