KABUL, Afghanistan 

A landmine blast in Afghanistan’s restive southern Kandahar province killed at least five civilians and injured 18 others, officials confirmed on Wednesday.

The provincial governor’s spokesman Jamal Nasir told Anadolu Agency that the incident took place late last night in the restive Maiwand district that recently fell to the Taliban insurgents.

“A passenger bus carrying passengers on the main Kandahar-Herat highway hit the landmine planted by the Taliban, killing five people and injuring 18 others,” he said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack. However, local officials pointed fingers at Taliban insurgents.

According to the Mirwais Hotak Regional Hospital, a number of women and children are among the injured.

Based on UN estimates, there are some 120 mine-related civilian casualties in Afghanistan every month, while the International Campaign to Ban Landmines recorded 1,538 fatalities due to landmines in the war-weary country in 2019 alone.

The deadly spiral of violence has gripped Afghanistan since the announcement of an exit date of September for American troops by US President Joe Biden, which has led to mounting casualties on all sides.

At least 10 members of a landmines clearing team were killed and 16 others injured in the northern Baghlan province in an armed attack earlier in June.

The Taliban on Wednesday claimed to capture four more districts in Badakhshan, Ghazni, and Paktia provinces.

The latest observation by the Long War Journal suggested that out of 398 districts in Afghanistan, the Taliban now control 107 while the government controls 92 and some 199 remain contested between the two.

According to the population, an overwhelming majority of Afghans, nearly 12 million live in government control areas, around 6 million in areas under the Taliban control while some 15 million in contested areas.

The Afghan Defense Ministry, meanwhile, vowed to have killed 209 insurgents in the past 24 hours in clean-up offensives across the country. “Don’t worry, We are alive, defending Afghanistan at all costs and not allowing the Taliban to achieve their nefarious goals and re-impose their illegitimate regime on our countrymen,” said Defense Minister Gen. Bismillah Muhammadi in a message.

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