Bomb kills dozens in Afghanistan

Members of parliament, children among the dead

November 07, 2007|By M. Karim Faiez and Henry Chu | M. Karim Faiez and Henry Chu,LOS ANGELES TIMES

KABUL, Afghanistan -- At least 28 people, including five Afghan lawmakers and a number of children, were killed yesterday in one of the country's deadliest suicide attacks since the ouster of the Taliban, authorities said.

The bomber struck a sugar factory in Baghlan province, north of Kabul, during a visit by a delegation from the lower house of parliament. The legislators, on an economic fact-finding trip, were being greeted by local dignitaries and children at the time.

"The explosion happened when the school students were singing songs to welcome the lawmakers to their province," said Zemeri Bashary, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry.

At least 59 people were injured, including police officers and children, he said. Officials warned that the death toll could rise significantly.

Among the dead was Sayed Mustafa Kazimi, a former commerce minister who is a spokesman for the National Front, Afghanistan's largest opposition group. Lawmakers reportedly were among the wounded.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, but suicide bombings have become increasingly common among Taliban insurgents fighting the Afghan government and foreign coalition troops.

About 5,700 people were killed in Afghanistan this year, the highest toll since U.S.-led forces overthrew the Taliban in December 2001. The bloodshed has put pressure on the government of President Hamid Karzai, who is struggling to maintain public support.

"This heinous act of terrorism is against Islam and humanity, and I condemn it in the strongest possible terms," Karzai said in a statement. "It is the work of the enemies of peace and security in Afghanistan."

The exact death toll was unclear because some bodies might have been removed by the victims' families before an official count. Some local officials put the number of dead at more than 50.

"I saw bodies lying in the streets, and some of the people were stealing the weapons of the dead soldiers. Children are screaming for help. It's like a nightmare," resident Mohammed Rahim told the Reuters news service. He said that two of his cousins, both schoolgirls, died in the blast.

In Washington, White House press secretary Dana Perino called the attack "a despicable act of cowardice."

"It reminds us who the enemy is: extremists with evil in their hearts who target innocent Muslim men, women and children," she said.

In southern Kandahar province, rocket fire from insurgents narrowly missed Canadian Defense Minister Peter MacKay, who was visiting a small Canadian military outpost there. He was not hurt but quickly was evacuated by helicopter.

M. Karim Faiez and Henry Chu write for the Los Angeles Times.

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