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KABUL, Afghanistan – Seven people died and 46 were injured on Wednesday when a truck exploded next to the main government compound in Laskar Gah, capital of Afghanistan’s volatile Helmand province.

Mohammad Jan Rasoolyar, the province’s deputy governor, said that several officials were among the wounded and that the governor’s residence was damaged. The compound houses a number of other office buildings, some of which were also damaged, he said.

He said the suicide attack occurred at 11 a.m., when a Mazda truck traveling down the street past the governor’s house suddenly detonated. Governor Omar Zwaak was not in the compound at the time of the attack, he said.

Taliban insurgents immediately claimed responsibility for the blast.

The attack occurred as government troops continued to press a major offensive against Taliban insurgents about 50 miles east of Laskar Gah. The aim of the offensive was to disrupt preparations for an expected Taliban summer offensive in the area.

Statements released by the Afghan government’s chief executive, Abdulah Abdullah, and the Interior Ministry in Kabul condemned the attack and the loss of life.

Abdullah is due to accompany President Ashraf Ghani on his first visit to the United States this weekend. Ghani and President Barack Obama are expected to discuss a delay in the drawdown of remaining U.S. advisers and other troops from Afghanistan in order to continue providing assistance to government forces during the coming fighting season.

news@stripes.com

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