Sun, Sep 30, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Military bus blown up in Kabul

FORCE The defense ministry said at least 27 national army personnel were killed and 21 injured as the vehicle was reduced to smoldering, mangled pieces of metal

AFP , KABUL

A suicide bomber wearing an army uniform blew up a bus carrying Afghan soldiers in Kabul yesterday, killing at least 31 people and wounding many others, the health and defense ministries said.

Most of the dead military personnel were soldiers and officers going to work at the defense ministry, but several passers-by were also believed to have been killed, officials and witnesses said.

The insurgent Taliban movement claimed responsibility for the early morning attack, the deadliest in the city since a similar explosion on a police bus in June killed about 35 people.

The force of the explosion blew off the roof and sides of the large bus, which was reduced to mangled metal.

Television pictures showed the bodies of men who appeared to be Afghan National Army soldiers being pulled from the wreckage. Some of the dead were still in their seats. Debris was scattered across a wide area.

"At this time I can tell you that 31, almost all of them military personnel, have been martyred," said Public Health Minister Sayed Mohammad Amin Fatemi.

Seventeen of the wounded were in a critical condition, he said during a visit to the city's main military hospital where many of the casualties were taken.

The defense ministry said at least 27 national army personnel were killed and 21 others injured.

The suicide attacker, who had been wearing an army uniform, detonated explosives strapped to his body as he approached the bus, the ministry said in a statement.

The vehicle was attacked in a residential suburb just northwest of the city center.

The Taliban, behind a wave of suicide attacks in Afghanistan this year, claimed responsibility.

Spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed said the attack was part of a Taliban "operation" of attacks planned for the holy month of Ramadan.

There have been more than 100 suicide attacks in Afghanistan this year, most blamed on the Taliban.

While most of insurgency-linked attacks are in remote areas in the south and east of Afghanistan, there have been a series of strikes inside Kabul this year.

Yesterday's was the first inside the heavily patrolled capital since a suicide bomb on Sept. 21 struck a NATO armored vehicle, killing a French soldier and wounding several Afghans.

The deadliest attack was on a police bus on June 17. Officials said at the time that 35 policemen were killed, making it the worst such attack since the Taliban launched its insurgency after being driven from government six years ago.

On Aug. 15, three German security officers attached to the embassy were killed when their vehicle struck a bomb just outside the capital.

The Taliban was ousted from government in late 2001 in a US-led invasion launched weeks after the 9/11 attacks blamed on al-Qaeda, which was sheltered by the Taliban government.

They took Kabul in September 1996, ending a civil war but imposing an austere version of Islam on the battered country.

The rebels' insurgency has grown steadily, with almost daily attacks in the south and east.

The violence has killed more than 5,000 people this year, most of them rebels but including more than 700 civilians.

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