- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 25, 2009

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Five car bombs that detonated simultaneously rocked Afghanistan’s largest southern city Tuesday, destroying a construction company office and damaging dozens of nearby buildings, officials said.

The explosion killed at least 36 people and wounded 64, said Gen. Ghulam Ali Wahabat, a police commander in charge of southern Afghanistan.

The force of the explosion shattered windows around the city and sent flames shooting into the sky.

Afghan officials said the blast appeared to target a Japanese construction company that employs Pakistani engineers mostly. The blast collapsed the company headquarters and destroyed part of a nearby wedding hall, an Associated Press reporter at the scene said.

The AP reporter described the blast as the largest he has heard in almost eight years of living in Kandahar, the site of several large Taliban attacks in recent years.

So many houses and nearby buildings collapsed that officials feared the death toll could rise further. The AP reporter at the scene estimated that 40 shops were destroyed.

“Once again they’ve killed children, women, innocent Afghans. They are not human. They are animals. You can see for yourself the destruction of this enemy,” said Mohammad Sher Shah, deputy provincial police chief.

Five vehicles filled with explosives detonated together, causing the massive blast, said Haji Agha Lalai, a provincial council member.

Taliban militants have carried out several complex attacks in Kandahar the past several years. Kandahar is the spiritual home of the Taliban. A large NATO base sits on Kandahar’s outskirts, but militants control districts immediately to the city’s west.

In other violence, a bomb blast killed four U.S. troops in southern Afghanistan on Tuesday, Lt. Cmdr. Christine Sidenstricker, a military spokeswoman, said. No other information was released pending the notification of family members.

The deaths bring to 41 the number of U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan this month, the second deadliest month in the country since the 2001 U.S. invasion. Last month, a record 44 U.S. troops died.

This year has been the deadliest of the war for U.S. troops. Including the latest deaths, at least 172 American forces have died in the Afghan war this year, according to an Associated Press count.

The United States has more than 60,000 troops in the country.

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