Afghan roadside bomb hits bus killing nine
A roadside bomb exploded under an Afghan bus southwest of Kabul on Monday, killing nine people and wounding at least 22 others in an attack blamed on Taliban militants, officials said.
The bus bombing in the flashpoint province of Wardak came as Afghanistan endures a bloody few days at a time of year that often sees a surge in violence as the cold winter recedes and the so-called “fighting season” begins.
A woman was among the dead and children among the wounded, officials said.
“Today at around 8.00am an IED (improvised explosive device) hit a bus,” said Attaullah Khogyani, the governor’s spokesman in Wardak province.
“At least 22 people are wounded and nine others, including a woman, are dead.”
Khogyani said the Taliban, who have been fighting for 11 years against the US-backed Kabul government, were behind the attack.
The bus was a government service making daily trips between the capital Kabul and Ghazni, the neighbouring province further to the southwest.
“I helped evacuate several dead and wounded. There were lots of people in the bus. Only a few survived unhurt, others were killed and wounded,” witness Mohammad Sarwar said.
Ghulam Farouq Wardak, the public health director of the province, confirmed that nine people had died and said there were three children among the wounded.
Several of those taken for medical treatment were described as in a critical condition.
Wardak is a Taliban hotbed close to Kabul and seen as a key strategic battleground in the fight against the Islamist extremists.
US-led coalition forces are winding down their operations before a scheduled withdrawal of the bulk of their 100,000 troops by the end of next year, with Afghan security forces gradually taking over the battle against the Taliban.
In February, Afghan President Hamid Karzai demanded US elite troops withdraw completely from Wardak, accusing US special forces of harassing civilians and their Afghan militia colleagues of torturing and murdering people.
On March 30, the US military pulled out of one district in Wardak as part of a deal with Karzai although no dates have been announced for the transition of the rest of the province to Afghan government control.
Last Wednesday, Taliban gunmen killed 46 people at a court in the far-western town of Farah to try to free insurgents standing trial, another incident raising questions about the Afghans’ ability to secure the country.
Late on Saturday a Nato air strike in the eastern province of Kunar, bordering on Pakistan, killed 11 children during a joint Afghan-Nato operation.
The deaths put further pressure on strained ties between Karzai and the US as the transition of security responsibilities to national forces gathers pace.
An Afghan official involved in the operation said air support was called in after local and coalition forces came under attack.
The strike came after five Americans, including a young female diplomat, were killed in two Taliban attacks in the country’s east and south on Saturday.
A suicide car bomber struck a Nato convoy in the southern province of Zabul, killing three US soldiers and two civilians, one of whom was the US diplomat.
They were travelling with Afghan officials to distribute books to students.