12/07/2011

19 killed when bus hits Afghanistan mine

From Masoud Popalzai and Nick Paton Walsh, CNN
 
 
Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) -- At least 19 people, including women and children, were killed when their bus hit a roadside mine in Afghanistan Wednesday, said Daud Ahmadi, a spokesman for the governor of Helmand province.
Their bus was traveling from provincial capital Lashkar Gah to Sangin district in the south of the restive province, he said.
He said he did not know whether the civilians were the target of the roadside mine planted by the Taliban.
The deaths come a day after twin suicide attacks killed 60 people and wounded scores of others in Kabul and the northern city of Mazar-e Sharif.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai canceled a visit to the United Kingdom to return home following deadly blasts on the Shiite holy day of Ashura.
A spokesman for the Afghan embassy in London said Karzai had been due in London late Tuesday from Germany but was flying back to Afghanistan.
A suicide bomber detonated a device at a Shiite shrine in Kabul on Tuesday, Afghan Health Ministry spokesman Kargar Norughli said. Fifty-six people were killed and 193 were wounded, Norughli added.
Megan Ellis, a U.S. Embassy spokeswoman in Kabul, said Wednesday that an American was among the dead. She added that consular officials were in touch with the family, who would need to consent to the release of further details.
Four people also were killed in a Tuesday explosion at a roundabout on a busy street in Mazar-e Sharif, the provincial capital of Afghanistan's northern Balkh province, police official Lal Mohammad Ahmadzai said. Another 21 were wounded in that attack.
"The enemies tried to spread fear in this important holiday in the city," Ahmadzai said.
It was not immediately clear whether the attack in Mazar-e Sharif was linked to the attack in Kabul.
The Taliban denied involvement in Tuesday's attacks.
A Sunni group in Pakistan with a history of sectarian attacks against Shiites apparently claimed responsibility for the attack at the shrine, but it was not immediately clear whether the claim was vaild.
A man identifying himself as a spokesman for Lashkar-e-Janghvi al Almi, a group with links to al Qaeda and the Pakistan Taliban, made the claim in a call to Radio Mashaal, a Pashto-language station in Pakistan sponsored by the U.S. government.
The group is an offshoot of the powerful Lashkar-e-Janghvi (LeJ), which has a record of high-profile suicide bombings in Pakistan, including the attack on the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad in 2008.
Afghanistan has seen previous attacks on mosques. In 2006, rioting broke out between Shiites and Sunnis at an Ashura festival in Herat, leading to several deaths. But the country has not seen sectarian attacks of the scale that occurred Tuesday.
Ashura commemorates the martyrdom of Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Mohammed. Hussein's death in battle in Karbala, Iraq, in 680, is one of the events that helped create the schism between Sunnis and Shiites, the two main Muslim religious movements. Shiites are a minority presence in Afghanistan, which is predominantly Sunni.