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MONDAY, JUNE 18, 2007

35 killed in Afghan bus attack
Taliban claim responsibility

By Rahim Faiez
Associated Press Writer

KABUL, Afghanistan — The deadliest insurgent attack since the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 destroyed a bus full of police instructors at Kabul’s busiest transportation hub on Sunday, killing 35 people and wounding 52, officials said.

The enormous suicide blast, which raised the specter of an increase in Iraq-style bombings with heavy casualties, was at least the fourth attack against a bus carrying Afghan police or army soldiers in Kabul in the last year. The blast sheared off the metal sidings and roof, leaving a charred frame.

The explosion was the fifth suicide attack in Afghanistan in three days, part of a sharp spike in violence around the country. In the south, in Kandahar province, a roadside bomb killed three members of the U.S.-led coalition and an Afghan interpreter. The soldiers’ nationalities were not released, but most in the coalition are American.

Condemning the Kabul attack, President Hamid Karzai said the “enemies of Afghanistan” were trying to stop the development of Afghan security forces, a key component in the U.S.-NATO strategy of handing over security responsibilities to the Afghan government one day, allowing Western forces to leave.

A self-described Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousef Ahmadi, said a Taliban suicide bomber named Mullah Asim Abdul Rahman caused the blast. Ahmadi called an Associated Press reporter from an undisclosed location. His claim could not be verified.

Zemeri Bashary, the spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said late Sunday that 35 were killed and 52 wounded in the blast. Karzai’s office said 22 police instructors died, indicating that 13 of the dead were civilians.

At least one person survived the 8:10 a.m. bus blast. Nasir Ahmad, 22, a janitor at the police training academy, was sitting in the back of the bus when the bomb exploded. Speaking from a hospital bed where he was recovering from wounds to his face and hands, he said: “There were between 30 to 40 police instructors in the bus.”

It was the only full sentence he managed to utter before stopping from exhaustion.

Interior Minister Zarar Ahmad Muqbal said initial indications were that a suicide bomber boarded the bus as it stopped to pick up police instructors at an open-air bus station in central Kabul. Such a suicide attack would represent a sizable jump in lethality compared to more typical Taliban suicide bombings.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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