- The Washington Times - Friday, January 31, 2003

KABUL, Afghanistan, Jan. 31 (UPI) — A blast near the southern Afghan city of Kandahar killed 18 people Friday, and there were conflicting reports as to what caused the explosion.

Afghan officials attributed the blast to a bomb planted by supporters of the Islamist Taliban and al Qaida, possibly with ties to the anti-American warlord Gulbuddin Hikmatyar.

However, Western aid workers said the deaths occurred after the bus the victims were traveling in hit a landmine as it was forced off the road by another bus.

The incident occurred at the Bambasi bridge, 6 miles south of Kandahar. The city was the stronghold of the Taliban government, which imposed a strict Islamic regime on Afghanistan until deposed by a U.S.-led coalition allied with Afghan resistance forces.

Kandahar is now the site of a major U.S. military base.

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