Source AP ©

Fifty nine schoolchildren killed in Afghanistan, 96 injured

Fifty nine children were killed and 96 others were wounded by an awful suicide attack in northern Afghanistan earlier this week, the Education Ministry said Friday.

The schoolchildren had lined up to greet a group of lawmakers visiting a sugar factory in the northern province of Baghlan on Tuesday when a suicide bomber detonated explosives. In total, at least 75 people were killed, including several parliamentarians.

Fifty-nine schoolchildren ages 8 to 18 and five teachers were among those killed in the attack, said Zahoor Afghan, an Education Ministry spokesman.

The attack was the deadliest in the country since the toppling of Taliban regime from power in the 2001 U.S.-led invasion.

"The education minister has ordered that no children should be ever again be used in these sort of events," the spokesman said.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai declared three days of mourning Wednesday and ordered an investigation. No group has claimed responsibility, and the Taliban denied any involvement.

Also Friday, NATO and Afghan troops battled Taliban fighters near Gulistan district in western Farah province. The soldiers seized the district center, leaving up to 20 suspected militants dead after militants overran it last week, said Gen. Abdul Rahman Sarjang, the provincial police chief.

On Thursday, U.S.-led coalition and Afghan troops surrounded a compound where militants had gathered near Tirin Kot, in Uruzgan province, sparking a clash which left seven suspected Taliban fighters dead, said Juma Gul Hamat, the provincial police chief. Four other militants were detained, he said.

There were no casualties among coalition and Afghan forces, Hamat said.

In southern Zabul province, Taliban militants on motorbikes ambushed and killed Shahjoy's district chief and two of his bodyguards on Thursday, said Mohammad Rasool Khan, a district police chief.

The victims were shopping in a market when four militants on two motorbikes shot them dead, said Khan.

Coalition and Afghan troops, meanwhile, clashed with Taliban insurgents in southern Helmand province's Nahr Surk district on Wednesday, leaving several militants dead, a coalition statement said.

The joint force was conducting a reconnaissance patrol near the district when insurgents engaged them with machine guns, rocket propelled grenades and small-arms fire, the statement said.

"The combined force immediately engaged the Taliban fighters with small-arms fire and close air support, killing many of the insurgents before they fled the area," it said.

Violence in Afghanistan this year has been the deadliest since the Taliban's ouster. More than 5,700 people, mostly militants, have died so far this year in insurgency-related violence, according to an Associated Press count based on figures from Afghan and Western officials.

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