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Afghan explosions take deadly toll

December 17, 2012|By Alexandra Zavis and Hashmat Baktash

KABUL, Afghanistan -- A suicide car bomber targeted a military contractor on the eastern outskirts of Kabul on Monday, killing at least one person and injuring 15 others, including foreigners, police said.

It was one of at least two deadly explosions in Afghanistan on Monday. Ten girls were killed and two injured when a land mine detonated in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar, authorities said.

The girls, who were between the ages 9 and 11, disturbed the device while collecting firewood in a field outside Dawlatzai village in the Chaparhar district, according to the local area governor, Mohammed Sadiq Dawlatzai.

The explosion in Kabul happened outside Contrack International Inc. on the Jalalabad road, a major commercial route lined with industrial plants and stores.

The company, which is headquartered in Virginia, provides logistic and maintenance support to the Afghan security forces, officials said. It has also provided services to the U.S. military.

The country manager, an American, was among the wounded, according to his deputy, John Rutherford.

Witnesses said a small truck packed with explosives was driven down an alley and detonated next to the wall of the compound shortly after 10 a.m. The blast collapsed walls, shattered windows and crumpled vehicles inside the compound and at a neighboring juice production company.

“That used to be my office,” Rutherford said, staring at a crater. He had stepped outside the building moments before the blast. 

Dazed-looking Afghan security guards, one with bandages wrapped around his head, gathered round. An Afghan investigator walked by carrying a severed hand in a plastic bag.

A man rushed up, pleading for information about his missing brother, a company driver.

“My brother came to work today. … I can’t find him,” Momin Shah said tearfully. He was directed to a nearby hospital.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the bombing, saying in a statement that the movement launched an attack on “an important foreign company providing security materials to the foreign troops.”

It was not clear whether the landmine that exploded in Nangarhar had been planted recently or was left over from previous wars. Provincial government spokesman Ahmed Zia Abdulzai blamed local insurgents. But Dawlatzai, the district governor, said he suspected it was an older device as insurgents generally place their bombs along roads used by security convoys.

Three decades of conflict have turned Afghanistan into one of the most heavily mined countries in the world. Hundreds of people are killed or injured each year by such devices and other leftover explosives, according to U.N. figures.

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