Sat, Oct 15, 2005 - Page 5 News List

Explosion destroys fuel tankers

BIG BANG The blast that incinerated eight tankers outside a base in Afghanistan was caused by bombs, the military said, but officials claimed it was sparked by cooking fires

AFP , KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN

Eight fuel tankers were destroyed in an explosion outside a base for US-led coalition forces in southern Afghanistan yesterday, military and government officials said.

An Afghan military commander said bombs had caused the explosion outside the base at the Kandahar air field at about 2am, but the Kandahar governor said the blast was sparked by cooking fires.

"Two of the tankers exploded after each other from mines inside them," Afghan military deputy commander Mohammad Sarwar said.

"Six other tankers then also exploded and burnt. Two people were injured," he said.

"The enemies are trying all ways to attack us. One is that they place mines or other ordnance in the vehicles coming to our bases which explode after a certain time," Sarwar said.

An Afghan National Army (ANA) base is attached to the coalition compound.

The governor of Kandahar, Asadullah Kalid, said however that the blasts were caused by flames from a gas cooking fire.

"The explosion was caused by a fire that the drivers used to cook dinner," he said.

An ANA soldier at the scene said the tankers were engulfed in a fireball.

"I heard a big bang and then a second one. I could see flames bursting out. And then the other vehicles took fire," he said.

The tankers had been among several vehicles waiting to go through security checks before entering the base.

A US-led coalition spokeswoman in the capital Kabul did not have information about the incident.

There was however a report that an ANA convoy had hit a mine in the area, Sergeant Marina Evans said. There were no details of damage or casualties, she said.

"According to our information, four ANA trucks in a convoy hit a mine ... We sent a reaction force to help," she said.

Kandahar city has over the past week seen an upsurge in violence linked to a Taliban insurgency.

Officials have blamed four recent attacks in and around the city on suicide bombers. At least three people were killed in the blasts, excluding the attackers.

Two of the attacks were aimed at foreign nationals: Three Canadian soldiers were hurt in a blast that killed an Afghan child on Wednesday last week, and four private British security guards were hurt in a suicide attack on a British embassy convoy days later.

On Wednesday, five aid workers were shot dead in an ambush near the city as they embarked on a mission to a refugee camp.

The murder of the two doctors, a pharmacist, a nurse and an administrator with the Afghan Health and Development Services prompted strong condemnation from President Hamid Karzai and non-government organizations working in Afghanistan.

The Taliban insurgency has been focused on southern and eastern Afghanistan, where the bulk of a US-led coalition of 20,000 troops in the war-ravaged country has been hunting down Taliban and al-Qaeda insurgents.

More than 1,400 people, most of them militants, have been killed in insurgency-linked violence this year, up from 850 last year.

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