- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 6, 2004

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — A bomb attached to a bicycle killed at least 13 persons yesterday, most of them children, on a road regularly used by U.S. troops in this southern city, underlining the violence still plaguing Afghanistan two years after the fall of the Taliban.

More than 50 people were wounded in the blast, which officials said might have been targeting U.S. troops or the provincial governor, whose motorcade was about to pass that way.

Eleven of the dead were children, ages 7 to 15, apparently among a crowd that gathered after another bomb went off at the same site a few minutes earlier.

“I was playing football when I heard the first bomb, and a lot us rushed to see what happened. Then the second one went off,” said Saami Khan, 15, who had been struck by shrapnel in the face and chest and was recuperating in a Kandahar hospital.

Deputy Police Chief Salim Khan suggested the twin blasts might have been intended for soldiers from an Afghan military base 100 yards away. But Deputy Interior Minister Hilalludin Hillal said the U.S. troops who regularly travel the road or Kandahar Gov. Yusuf Pashtun were more likely targets of the attackers.

Mr. Khan said a truck driver and a male passer-by also were killed by the bomb, which he said was attached to a bicycle.

A soldier, Amanullah Popolzai, said authorities arrested a man seen running from the scene shortly before the explosion. The man, who appeared to be an Afghan, was caught trying to hide in a nearby home. “The man looked like he was a Talib fighter,” he said.

In the capital, Kabul, President Hamid Karzai condemned the attack as “barbarism.”

“These enemies of Afghanistan, who hide in the darkness to launch attacks on innocent civilians, must be eliminated, and they will be eliminated,” said Karzai spokesman Jawid Luddin.

The bombing came two days after a constitutional loya jirga, or grand council, meeting in Kabul ratified a charter supposed to underpin a new state strong enough to put an end to a quarter-century of fighting.

Southern and eastern Afghanistan have been plagued by shootings, kidnappings and bombings against civilians as well as soldiers, many of them claimed by the Taliban.

The violence threatens the timetable for national elections scheduled for the summer, and has all but halted badly needed rebuilding across a huge swath of the country along the Pakistani border.

On Monday night, gunmen attacked the office of the U.N. refugee agency in Kandahar, throwing a grenade and firing shots but causing no injuries.

A bomb ripped through a bustling bazaar in the city a month ago, wounding 20 Afghans.

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