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Afghan Official: Mortar Attack in Kandahar Kills 5 People

KABUL, Afghanistan  — A mortar shell struck a taxi in Afghanistan's southern Kandahar province on Sunday, killing at least five civilians including two children, an Afghan official said.

Provincial police spokesman Jamal Naser Barekzai blamed the Taliban for the attack, although the militants denied responsibility.

Both the Taliban and the government routinely blame each other for attacks on civilians in the capital Kabul and elsewhere. The perpetrators are rarely identified, and the public is seldom informed of the results of investigations into the violence.

The war between the Taliban and Afghanistan's national security and defense forces has intensified over the past few months, as U.S. and NATO troops complete their pullout from the war-torn country. The Taliban are now trying to seize provincial capitals, after already taking smaller administrative districts in the past months.

The spokesperson for the Afghan armed forces, Gen. Ajmal Omar Shinwari, said Sunday in a press conference that three provinces in southern and western Afghanistan face critical security situations. The army is trying to interdict Taliban movement in Helmand province, he added.

Southern Kandahar — the birthplace of the Taliban — as well as Helmand and Herat provinces have witnessed several attacks.

Helmand provincial council chief Attaullah Afghan said that the Taliban increased its forces in the provincial capital of Lashar Gah on Sunday, confirming that the insurgents now have control of the city's seventh district.

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