A Taliban suicide bomber killed at least five civilians and wounded 25 others in southern Afghanistan on Wednesday, an official said.

Women and children were among the dead, in the attack claimed by the armed group.

“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, told reporters.

Children were studying at a nearby mosque when the explosion took place, Zhwak said, adding they were injured in the violence.

Authorities claimed that a group of police officers who had lined up to collect their pay had been targeted, said Al Jazeera’s Jennifer Glasse, reporting from Kabul.

As there have been so many threats on Afghan banks that pay out government and security forces, there is actually a bank branch inside the police station,” she said. “Police officers were lined up when the attack happened.”

The Taliban effectively controls or contests 10 of 14 districts in Helmand.

Intensified fighting

Intensified fighting last year forced thousands of people to flee to Lashkar Gah from neighbouring districts.

Early in July, an American soldier was killed and two others were wounded in an attack in Helmand province while conducting operations against the Taliban.

Since it launched an annual spring offensive in late April, the Taliban has been mounting lethal assaults on the Afghan army and police outposts in Helmand.

The attack comes a day after US President Donald Trump announced that the US would continue fighting in Afghanistan to avoid the “predictable and unacceptable” results of a rapid withdrawal from the country.

In reponse,the Taliban said that Afghanistan would become a “graveyard” for American soldiers.

Trump did not provide the number of additional troops that would be sent to the conflict, America’s longest war, though US officials said before the speech they expected him to go along with a Pentagon recommendation for nearly 4,000 new troops.

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