The bomber detonated a car filled with explosives outside police headquarters in Lashkar Gar, Helmand province. The attack came a day after US President Donald Trump cleared the way for thousands more American troops to go to the war-torn country.

Ordinary Afghans have paid a heavy price for the 16-year US-led war and analysts have warned that Trumps renewed commitment could fuel the insurgency and lead to more casualties.
Ordinary Afghans have paid a heavy price for the 16-year US-led war and analysts have warned that Trumps renewed commitment could fuel the insurgency and lead to more casualties. (Reuters)

At least seven people were killed and 42 wounded when a suicide attacker detonated a car bomb near a police headquarters in Afghanistan's Helmand province on Wednesday, officials said.

The attack came a day after US President Donald Trump cleared the way for thousands more American troops to be sent to the war-torn country. 

"A suicide bomber detonated an explosive-filled car in a parking lot near the main police headquarters in Lashkar Gah," Omar Zhwak, a spokesman for the governor of Helmand province said.

The explosion struck a crowd of policemen and soldiers who had gathered to collect their pay in Helmand's capital city, Lashkar Gah, provincial police chief Abdul Ghafar Safai said.

Women and children were among the casualties, Zhwak said, in the attack that was claimed by the Taliban.  

"We have received 38 wounded - mostly schoolchildren," Mauladad Tabihdad, director of hospitals in Helmand, said.

Militants had previously attacked security forces gathered to collect their pay at a bank in Lashkar Gah in June.

That prompted officials to move a bank branch into the city's police headquarters to improve security.

The price of US-led war civilians

For years Helmand province, of which Lashkar Gah is the capital, was the centrepiece of the Western military intervention in Afghanistan, but it has recently slipped deeper into a quagmire of instability.

The Taliban had called for a complete withdrawal of foreign forces and following Trump's announcement vowed to make the war-weary country a "graveyard" for US forces.

The Taliban quickly claimed Wednesday's attack in a text message sent to journalists. "We targeted army tanks, killing dozens," it read.

Ordinary Afghans have paid a heavy price for the 16-year US-led war and analysts have warned that Trump's renewed commitment could fuel the insurgency and lead to more casualties.

Civilian deaths are at their worst since records began in 2009. In the first half of the year, 1,662 civilians were killed and more than 3,500 injured, according to the United Nations.

The attack was also the latest blow to Afghanistan's beleaguered security forces.

The resurgent Taliban have been ramping up their campaign against government forces, underscoring rising insecurity during the summer fighting season when the warmer weather tends to spur an increase in attacks. 

Afghan police and troops - beset by a high death toll, desertions and non-existent "ghost soldiers" on the payroll - have been struggling to beat back the insurgents since US-led NATO troops ended their combat mission in December 2014.

Casualties among Afghan security forces soared by 35 percent in 2016, with 6,800 soldiers and police killed, according to US watchdog SIGAR.

More than 2,500 Afghan police and troops were killed from January 1 to May 8.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies