KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — An explosion at an ammunition depot near the Kandahar air base killed three U.S.-allied Afghan fighters Thursday, and the top Canadian officer here said one of the men may have inadvertently tripped a booby trap.
The explosion Thursday morning about a mile south of the air base sent shrapnel and other ordnance flying over the heads of Canadian troops who had gone out to try to help. Detonations from the weapons depot continued into the evening and started a large brush fire, Lt. Col. Pat Stogran said.
Afghan forces said the men were moving a crate at the depot that they hoped to break down into firewood when they apparently tripped the booby trap, according to Stogran, commander of the approximately 750 Canadian troops at the base.
Stogran said the threat of further detonations had prevented Canadian forces from approaching the facility, a known ammunition site used by allied Afghan forces.
"We came here expecting these sorts of incidents, and certainly when we are handling caches of ammunition and such, we are very wary of the possibility of booby traps," Stogran said. "It being their own cache of ammunition, they were probably a lot more relaxed about it."
It wasn't clear whether the alleged trap might have been laid by the U.S. allies or their enemies. However, Stogran said coalition forces were aware that Al Qaeda terrorists remained in the region after Kandahar fell. The southern city was the power base of the ousted Taliban regime that welcomed Osama bin Laden.
"We're quite sure there are Al Qaeda operatives that have stayed behind in the area," Stogran said, and "there are other groups that are claiming to want to create hostilities within the interim administration, so it could be any one of a number of groups."