Blast kills 10 Afghan girls collecting firewood

Officials say the blast may have been caused by a Taliban bomb or an old land mine.

JALALABAD, Afghanistan — A blast killed 10 Afghan girls as they were collecting firewood Monday in eastern Afghanistan, government officials said.

It was not immediately clear what caused the explosion in volatile Nangarhar province. It could have been a bomb planted by Taliban insurgents or a land mine left over from decades of conflict.

The girls, between 9 and 11 years old, were collecting wood in remote Chaparhar district near the porous border with Pakistan, which is infested with some of the world's most dangerous militant groups.

"Unfortunately, 10 little girls were killed and two others wounded, but we don't know whether it was planted by the Taliban," said Ahmadzia Abdulzai, provincial government spokesman.

Women and children are often the victims of the war between the Taliban and U.S.-led NATO and Afghan forces, now in its eleventh year.

Many Afghans are growing increasingly worried that the nation could face another civil war or a major Taliban push to seize power again when most NATO combat troops withdraw by the end of 2014.

Writing by Hamid Shalizi.

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