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Afghan Bus Blast Kills German Peacekeepers

The bombing injures about 10. Victims were going to the airport after completing their mission.

June 07, 2003|Najibullah Murshed | Special to The Times

KABUL, Afghanistan — A bomb blast killed several German peacekeepers and injured about 10 people on a bus carrying soldiers, who had completed their mission, to the airport today, officials said.

Afghan officials called the bombing on the outskirts of the capital one of the worst terrorist attacks on peacekeeping forces since a U.S.-led coalition ousted Afghanistan's Taliban regime in December 2001. The number of casualties were still being counted, but officials estimated that six were killed.

"Most probably it was a suicide bomb," Said Afzal Aman, the deputy commander of the Afghan government forces' Kabul garrison, said in an interview at the scene of the attack. He said that those killed were Germans and that the wounded included Dutch peacekeepers.

Two buses were carrying International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, troops from their headquarters in Pul-i-Charkhi, east of Kabul, the capital, to the airport where they were to board flights home because they had completed their tour, Aman said.

A witness to the explosion told ISAF officers that he saw a taxi with two people inside drive close to the buses before the explosion, Aman said. He said he saw pieces of a destroyed car engine that he believed were from the suicide bombers' car.

But Aman said he did not know whether a car bomb had destroyed the bus, or whether an explosive device went off inside it. An ISAF spokeswoman said the peacekeeping force believed that it was a car bomb.

Violence has been mounting in Afghanistan in recent weeks, underscoring the U.S.-led coalition's difficulty in trying to stabilize the country after the war against the Taliban regime and its Al Qaeda allies.

Up to 200 U.S. troops launched a mountain search mission for suspected Taliban fighters Friday after gunmen opened fire on a crowd of civilians, including a young boy, in eastern Afghanistan's Paktia province. One of the gunmen was killed; another was taken prisoner.

On Wednesday, Afghan government forces claimed their biggest victory against Taliban remnants since the war's end. Commanders in the south said their forces killed 40 Taliban fighters in a battle near Loi Karez, about 20 miles northeast of the border town of Spin Buldak.

Taliban commander Hafiz Abdul Rahim, quoted by the Reuters news agency, vowed revenge Friday. He said only eight fighters, including two commanders, were killed. He insisted that the rest were civilians.

He also accused the government forces of executing three wounded Taliban fighters after the battle had ended.

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