At Least 61 Killed as Afghan Violence Erupts
Sixty-one people were killed and dozens wounded in outbreaks of violence across Afghanistan in the troubled country's bloodiest 24 hours in more than a year, officials said Wednesday.
At least 25 people, most of them factional fighters, were killed after fighting erupted early Wednesday between forces of a sacked provincial official and his successor in a remote district of Uruzgan province, a cabinet minister said.
Also Wednesday, at least 15 died, including a woman and children, when a suspected Taliban bomb blew apart a bus in the southern province of Helmand.
Government forces said they killed 16 Taliban and al Qaeda fighters and lost five of their own in clashes in the southeast that began late Tuesday.
The cabinet minister, who did not want to be further identified, said the fighting in Uruzgan involved supporters of Amanullah, the former ruler of the remote district of Kajran and his successor, Abdul Rahman Khan.
He quoted Khan as saying it started after Amanullah's fighters opened fire on a bus carrying his supporters.
``Khan told me eight of his people died in the bus incident, in which 20 were wounded, and he lost seven others. Amanullah told me 10 of his men, including close family, were killed.''
The minister said the fighting was continuing and the central government was trying to broker a cease-fire.
Ghulam Mahaiuddin, head of administration in Helmand, said the bus blast there happened early in the morning in Nadi Ali district, west of the provincial capital Lashkargah.
``Eight of those killed on the bus were male, six of them were children and there was a woman too,'' he told Reuters.
Mahaiuddin said it appeared the bomb had gone off accidentally inside the bus and may have been intended for an attack on independence celebrations in Lashkargah next week.
He blamed guerrillas from the Taliban regime ousted in late 2001 and said it was possible the bomber died in the blast.
SEVERAL RECENT BLOODY ATTACKS.
Troubled Helmand was a main bastion of the Taliban until its overthrow and has been hit by several bloody attacks by a resurgent Taliban guerrilla movement in recent months.
In the southeastern province of Khost, border forces said they had killed 16 Taliban and al Qaeda guerrillas repulsing a major attack in which five border policemen were also killed.
Border police officer Major Ghafar said the insurgents used heavy guns, rifles, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades to attack a base used by a border battalion in the Shinkai area east of Khost and adjacent to the border with Pakistan on Tuesday.
He said the fighting continued overnight.
``The Taliban attack has been foiled. But we are continuing our mopping up,'' he said, adding that two Arabs from the al Qaeda network had been captured.
Ghafar described it as the biggest attack in the area since the Taliban fell. ``In the past, they have staged small-scale attacks, but this one was the most serious of all,'' he said.
Shellfire could be heard in the background as Ghafar spoke by satellite telephone.
``The sound you can hear is outgoing fire,'' he said, adding that government forces had counterattacked after a three-phase guerrilla assault that lasted until 6:30 a.m.
The violence comes despite the presence in Afghanistan of a 12,500-strong U.S.-led coalition pursuing Taliban and al Qaeda remnants, and NATO, which is commanding a 5,000-strong peacekeeping force in Kabul.
The role of NATO, which took command of the force on Monday, remains confined to Kabul despite repeated pleas from the government, the United Nations and others for an expansion of peacekeeping into the lawless provinces.
Ghafar said authorities had not asked the U.S.-led coalition forces for air support as Afghan forces had been sufficiently strong to chase the insurgents from the area.
He said he did not know how many guerrillas had taken part, but the attack had been led by Jalaluddin Haqqani, a top military commander and a former minister in the Taliban regime.
Khost was another major base area for the Taliban.
Police in Kabul said two student Taliban supporters were killed and one wounded after a car bomb they were making blew up in a western suburb of the capital Tuesday.
[Source: Reuters, NY Times Online News Report, August 13, 2003]
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