Dallas News, July 10, 2009

Afghan truck blast kills 25, including 13 children

Most of the dead were civilians, including at least 13 students from a nearby primary school, officials said.

A truck filled with explosives and timber blew up Thursday in a village south of the Afghan capital, killing 25 people, including 13 children on their way to school.

An injured Afghan child from the Bala Baluk
People gather around the blast in Logar on July 9, 2009.(Photo: Reuters)

The U.S. military, meanwhile, reported that three U.S. soldiers were killed by roadside bombs, two in southern Afghanistan and one in the east. At least 17 U.S. and British troops have been killed in combat incidents in the last week.

The attacks are part of a pattern of escalating violence in widely scattered areas of Afghanistan.

The truck blast took place in Logar province. The vehicle, traveling on Afghanistan's main north-south highway, apparently ran off the road and overturned before dawn. When police and civilians approached after daybreak and tried to right the truck, it blew up, the Interior Ministry said.

Most of the dead were civilians, including at least 13 students from a nearby primary school, officials said. The thunderous blast left a huge crater in the highway and collapsed several shops and homes.

Officials were trying to determine if the explosion was triggered remotely when help arrived or if it detonated when the truck was moved.

Officials were looking into the possibility that the Taliban had been transporting the explosives to the capital. Kabul has been relatively calm lately, but there have been repeated warnings that the Taliban intend to sabotage presidential elections planned for Aug. 20.

Bombs have become the militants' weapon of choice, and the number of such attacks has spiked this year as thousands of additional American troops have joined the fight.

The latest bloodshed coincided with a major U.S. military offensive in southern Afghanistan's Helmand province. In the last week, 4,000 U.S. Marines and hundreds of Afghan troops have secured the lower Helmand River valley. Commanders say they plan to hold the territory with a string of new outposts and a concerted effort to reach out to mistrustful tribal elders and village leaders.

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