Bomb kills 9 civilians in Afghanistan’s north
KABUL, Afghanistan — A station wagon carrying a family of Afghan civilians struck a roadside bomb in northern Afghanistan yesterday, killing all nine aboard, an official said.
It was the second such incident in 24 hours. The day before, six were killed when their minivan also hit a roadside bomb, this time in the southern Helmand Province.
The blast in northern Baghlan Province happened after midday, said Mahmood Haqmal, a spokesman for the provincial government. The vehicle had just left the local capital when it struck the buried explosive, killing six women, two men, and a child.
Across the border, an explosion ripped through a minibus traveling in a militant-infested area of northwestern Pakistan today, killing at least 15 people, police said. It was unclear whether the blast, which destroyed the bus, was caused by a bomb or by the gas cylinder used to power the vehicle, a local police chief said.
The bus was traveling between the cities of Hangu and Kohat, which are very close to Pakistan’s lawless tribal region. Islamist militants frequently carry out attacks in the area against civilians and security forces.
In Afghanistan, civilian casualties have surged in recent months as insurgents have stepped up attacks.
A recent United Nations report said it documented 2,412 conflict-related civilian casualties in the first 10 months of 2010. More than three-quarters of them were caused by militant activity, a 25 percent increase from the same period in 2009, the report said.
At the same time, civilian casualties attributed to progovernment forces decreased.
Saturday’s explosion in Helmand Province killed women and children, and wounded three others riding in the vehicle, the governor’s office said in a statement. That blast occurred in Sangin district, where international forces have been taking heavy casualties while battling a strong insurgency.
In the capital, government officials said they are working to blunt a surge in fuel prices stemming from Iran’s decision to block thousands of fuel tankers at the border — apparently out of concern that the fuel is being used by NATO forces.
The Afghan government has insisted that the fuel is for the local market only.
Commerce Minister Anwarul Haq Ahady told reporters that the government is working to increase fuel imports from other countries such as Russia, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan. Some Afghan businesses have struck deals with Russian companies, and the Afghan government hopes that more are coming, he added.
The minister said very little progress had been made in attempts to negotiate passage for the tankers stuck at the border since late December. Between 1,800 and 1,900 of the original 3,000 stranded tankers are waiting to cross into Afghanistan, he said.
Afghanistan relies entirely on imported fuel.