New Afghan 'fighting season' - 19 dead
Herat - At least 19 people were killed and 39 wounded in three suicide attacks in Afghanistan on Tuesday, officials said, as spring heralded the "fighting season".
Defence ministry spokesperson General Zahir Azimi said "as the season changes, we will have more fighting than in winter".
He told a news conference that "attacks on Afghan forces are intensifying" as they take more responsibility for security from US-led Nato troops who are due to withdraw by the end of 2014.
Taliban insurgents fighting to topple the Western-backed government of President Hamid Karzai claimed responsibility for the Helmand attacks.
The start of the new "fighting season" also saw a major attack in the northern province of Faryab last week, in which three US soldiers and seven Afghans were killed. That attack was also claimed by the Taliban.
Nato has about 130 000 troops fighting the insurgency, which began when the Taliban were ousted from power in a 2001 invasion in the wake of the al-Qaeda attacks on New York and Washington.
But civilians bear the brunt of the war.
In February, the UN said civilian deaths from the Afghan conflict reached a record high in 2011, mostly at the hands of insurgents.