Bus explosion kills 16 in Afghanistan

Kandahar police blame Taliban, al-Qaida forces

February 01, 2003|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

KABUL, Afghanistan - At least 16 people, including women and children, were killed when their bus exploded on a bridge outside the southern city of Kandahar, in an attack that the local police attributed to the Taliban or other rebel forces.

The explosion, probably from an anti-tank mine, gouged a large crater in the road and hurled the bus and bodies around an area of 30 yards. The driver and a 12-year-old boy survived, according to local reporters. Another man died in the hospital, they said.

"We think it was those terrorists who oppose us," said Gen. Akram Khakrezwal, the police chief of Kandahar.

He said the explosion was most likely caused by the Taliban, al-Qaida and followers of the renegade mujahedeen commander, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who have vowed to oust the American military presence in Afghanistan and the government of President Hamid Karzai.

"As you know, they have all joined together and have the same aims," Khakrezwal said.

The attack was an act of terror aimed at the local people, the police chief said. The victims, all civilians, included women and children. He ruled out any suggestion that the explosion was caused by a tribal or political dispute.

"It was a city bus," he said. "The people were not just from one village, or one tribe; they were all from different places."

American troops have been waging a fierce battle against rebel fighters 90 miles away from Kandahar, close to the border with Pakistan. An estimated 18 rebels were killed in the first large-scale fighting since March. The fighting, the first sign that rebel fighters were regrouping in significant numbers, comes amid repeated reports that the Taliban, al-Qaida, and Hekmatyar were planning joint attacks, particularly to coincide with a war in Iraq.

American Special Forces and paratroopers continued to search the mountain areas where rebels were engaged on Monday night. Troops searched more caves without incident yesterday, the American military reported.

Early this week, troops found weapons, supplies and signs of wounded men being treated in some of the caves.

Officials in Kandahar did not directly link the bus explosion to recent fighting, but they said the same people were involved.

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