AP, July 10, 2007
At Least 17, Mostly Childern, Die in Afghan Suicide Blast
The UN and NATO quickly condemned the attack for harming so many civilians
Noor Khan, AP Writer
A suicide bomber targeted a NATO patrol in a marketplace filled with children Tuesday, killing 13 elementary school students and at least four other people. The U.N. and NATO quickly condemned the attack for harming so many civilians.
Eight Dutch soldiers patrolling on foot — the apparent targets — and at least 35 Afghans were wounded in the bombing in southern Uruzgan province, one of the deadliest in Afghanistan this year. The Taliban claimed responsibility.
RAWA Photos: Civilian Victims of Girishk air strikes by NATO on June 29, 2007. 45 civilians, many of them women and children, were killed.
Photo Gallery of US victims in Afghanistan ( )
The Afghan Victim Memorial Project by Prof. Marc ( )
The bomber struck around 9 a.m., when children usually arrive at a nearby primary school for a second shift of classes. Schools in Afghanistan often serve three rotations of students.
"Some of the children were walking to school while other children were selling goods in the market," said Qassim Khan, the provincial police chief.
He said the bomber blew himself up outside a pharmacy as the Dutch patrol entered the market, a central shopping area for people from nearby villages. Seven shops were destroyed.
A Taliban fighter carried out the attack, said Qari Yousef Ahmadi, a spokesman for the hard-line militia.
Both the United Nations and NATO criticized the Taliban over the civilian deaths. The U.S. and NATO have taken heat this year over Afghan civilians killed by Western military action.
"Such utter disregard for innocent lives is staggering, and those behind this must be held responsible," said the U.N.'s top representative in Afghanistan, Tom Koenigs.
"Their act today makes a mockery of recent statements indicating concern for civilian lives," he said, a reference to a Web site posting in May attributed to Taliban leader Mullah Omar, who said he was "concerned" about civilian deaths caused by the U.S. or NATO.
Maj. John Thomas, a spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force, said the bomber showed "no concern for the potential deaths and injuries of civilians."
"It's pretty shocking that with the recent calls by some insurgent leaders to protect civilians in this conflict that they would undertake a massacre of civilians in a marketplace," Thomas said.
Details about the bombing varied. The deputy district police chief, Jahih Kawi Khan, said 19 people were killed and 35 wounded, while the Interior Ministry said 17 died. Provincial health department chief Luma Khan said 51 people were wounded, mostly children. Afghan officials said the suicide bomber was on foot; NATO said it was a vehicle bombing.
The officials all agreed that 13 children died.
The attack occurred in Dihrawudat district in the southern tip of Uruzgan province, near the border with Helmand and Kandahar, among the most violent areas in the country and the heart of the opium poppy-growing region.
The bombing appeared to be the third-deadliest of the year. On June 17, a suicide bomber blew himself up on a bus carrying police instructors in Kabul, killing 35 people. In February, a bomber detonated explosives outside the main U.S. base at Bagram, killing 23 people, during a visit by Vice President Dick Cheney.
Violence has spiked in Afghanistan in recent weeks. More than 3,100 people — mostly militants — have died in insurgency-related violence this year, according to an Associated Press count based on figures from Western and Afghan officials.
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