KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - A roadside bomb hit a public bus in a restive province near the Afghan capital on Monday, killing at least nine passengers and raising the death toll from violence in the country to more than 100 so far this month, officials said.
So far, April has been the deadliest month this year for Afghan and foreign civilians and security forces, an ominous sign as the annual fighting season gets underway with improved weather. Fighting usually abates during the country's harsh winter season.
The explosion occurred in the Sayed Abad district of Wardak province, deputy provincial police chief Gen. Abdul Razaq Quraishi said. The governor's office said the bus was traveling from eastern Ghazni province to the capital.
Wardak is located next to Kabul and is considered a gateway and staging area for militant attacks there.
Afghan special forces took control of part of Wardak from U.S. troops last month despite concerns that insurgents in the area could threaten neighboring Kabul. That ended a weeks-long dispute over abuse allegations that prompted Afghan President Hamid Karzai to order all American forces out of the area.
The handover highlighted the Karzai government's struggle to assert its authority over security matters on an accelerated timetable ahead of the scheduled withdrawal of most of coalition forces by December 2014.
The Afghan president had angrily insisted that U.S. forces leave Nirkh over the alleged torture, kidnapping and summary execution of militant suspects there - charges U.S. officials firmly denied.
The attack capped a deadly week that included suicide attacks that killed Afghan civilians and five Americans. Afghan officials also said a NATO airstrike killed 11 children in a remote eastern area on Saturday. The U.S.-led coalition has confirmed there was an airstrike but is still investigating reports of casualties.
Excluding insurgents, at least 102 people have been killed in just over a week since April started, compared with 40 in March, 16 in February and 24 in January.