At least 16 die in Afghan bus explosion


An Afghan looks at the remains of a bus destroyed by an explosion on a bridge Friday outside Kandahar, Afghanistan.

(AP Photo)
Published: Saturday, February 1, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, February 1, 2003 at 1:52 a.m.
KABUL, Afghanistan - At least 16 people, including women and children, were killed when their bus exploded on a bridge just 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 antitank mine, gouged a large crater in the road, and hurled the bus and bodies around an area of 30 yards. The driver and a boy of 12 survived, according to local reporters. Another man died in the hospital, they said.
"We think it was those terrorists who oppose us," Gen. Akram Khakrezwal, he police chief of Kandahar, said in a telephone interview.
He said the explosion was most likely caused by the Taliban, al-Qaeda and followers of the renegade mujahedeen commander, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who have all 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 were all civilians, included women and children. He ruled out any suggestion that the explosion was caused by a tribal or political dispute.
American troops have been waging a fierce battle against rebel fighters just 90 miles away from Kandahar, close to the border with Pakistan. An estimated 18 rebels were killed in the first large-scale fighting since Operation Anaconda in March last year. The fighting was the first sign that rebel fighters were regrouping in significant numbers and comes amid repeated reports that the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and Hekmatyar were planning joint attacks, particularly to time with the outbreak of 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 Friday, the American military reported. Earlier this week, troops found weapons, supplies and signs of wounded men being treated in some of the mountain caves, but the main group of an estimated 80 rebels appear to have melted away.
Officials in Kandahar did not directly link the bus explosion to the recent fighting at the border, but they said the same people were involved.
The attack on the bus comes amid growing violence in Afghanistan's border areas with Pakistan and repeated threats from rebels that they will attack American forces and Afghans working for them. Hand-written leaflets were handed out in the Pakistan border town of Chaman, Agence France-Presse reported.
"God willing, guerrilla attacks will soon be launched on Americans and their lackeys," said one of the photocopied pamphlets, the agency reported.
Signed by a group calling itself "al-Qaida Al Jahad," the leaflets made direct threats of attacks against Afghans who provide American troops with intelligence on remnant al-Qaida and Taliban fighters.
What appears to have been such an attack occurred last weekend further north in the village of Barmol in Paktika province, an American military spokesman confirmed. An Afghan working as a purchaser for American military forces was killed, along with two bodyguards and a local man, when gunmen opened fire on their car, just a few miles from the Pakistan border. The man, Laik Ahmedzai, had received threats from al-Qaida and Taliban supporters, warning him to stop working for the Americans.
The following day, two Afghan security guards, part of a U.N. refugee agency convoy, were killed when gunmen opened fire on their car further north, in Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan. U.N.officials have also reported a growing infiltration of Taliban and rebel supporters in the Nangarhar area from Pakistan.
International peacekeeping troops based in Kabul have also been warned of an increased terrorist threat in the area.

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