30 dead in bus mine blast

September 29, 2009 12:00 am

, KANDAHAR, Sept 29 – At least 30 civilians were killed when a bus hit a roadside bomb in southern Afghanistan on Tuesday in an attack blamed on the Taliban, the interior ministry said.

The dead included 10 children and seven women, the ministry said, revising an earlier toll from the local governor’s office.

"Thirty people were killed," the ministry said in a statement, adding that 39 others were wounded.

The governor’s office said the bus was travelling from the western city of Herat to Kandahar when it hit an improvised mine in Maywand district, the Taliban’s weapon of choice which has claimed hundreds of lives.

"The mine was placed by enemies of the country," an expression used to refer to Islamic insurgents, the governor’s office said.

Kandahar is a Taliban stronghold and has seen some of the worst violence in the militants’ battle against Western troops and the internationally-backed Afghan government.

Afghan and international troops arrived at the scene of the explosion, around 40 kilometres (around 25 miles) west of Kandahar city, the regional capital, and ferried the wounded to military bases for treatment.

On Monday, three civilians, including a woman were killed when their car hit a bomb in the road in the same area. Two others were also wounded.

NATO issues almost daily reports on deaths from improvised explosive devices (IEDs), principally in the southern Taliban strongholds but also increasingly in previously peaceful provinces.

In the first eight months of the year, 40 percent of the civilian fatalities in Afghanistan were caused by IEDs or suicide attacks, more than 600 people, according to the United Nations.

Western governments spending billions to support the Afghan government have highlighted IEDs as the biggest challenge facing troops deployed to Taliban hotspots, especially in southern Helmand and Kandahar.

Experts say the devices are cheap and easy to put together, are rigged to timers or remote controls, can be detonated when vehicles drive over pressure plates or linked into a chain of bombs to cause maximum damage.

The attack came with a Taliban insurgency at its deadliest since the 2001 US-led invasion ousted the group’s hard-line regime and with Afghanistan facing political turmoil following a fraud-tainted presidential election last month.

The militants have stepped up their insurgency aiming to bring down the Western-backed government and force out the more than 100,000 foreign troops stationed in the war-torn nation.

The insurgency has paralysed the Western-backed reconstruction drive, killed thousands of people and bogged NATO and US troops down in the conflict.

US President Barack Obama is conducting a wide-ranging review of strategy in the country and is contemplating whether to send more troops.

The top US and NATO commander in Afghanistan earlier this month warned Obama in a confidential report that the war against the Taliban could be lost within a year without more soldiers.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, beleaguered by accusations of fraud in last month’s presidential election, has said he will launch peace talks with Taliban leaders if he wins another five years in the country’s top job.

Preliminary results from the poll show Karzai leading with 54.6 percent of the vote, against 27.8 percent for his main rival, former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah.

However, final results will not be announced until complaints of irregularities have been investigated and a partial recount conducted.


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