Dozens perish after bus plunges off road in mountains of Afghanistan

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Dozens killed in bus accident in Afghan mountains

KABUL — A bus plunged off a mountain road in Afghanistan’s Hindu Kush mountains Wednesday, catching fire and leaving as many as 35 people dead, though authorities were still pulling burned bodies from the wreckage.

Dr. Sanim Rasouli, health director in Baghlan province, says the bus picked up speed, struck other vehicles and then plunged off a road near the Salang Pass, a major route through the mountains about 70 miles (115 kilometers) north of the capital, Kabul.

“The bus failed to brake and hit several other small vehicles on its way down a hill,” Rasouli said, adding that the brakes might not have been working.

He said dozens of people — some of them children — burned to death when the bus caught fire.

The Afghan Interior Ministry reported that up to 35 people were killed in the accident just north of the 12,700-foot- (3,800-meter-) high Salang Pass, the site of an avalanche earlier this year that killed more than 170 people.

In southern Afghanistan, would-be suicide attackers targeted the offices of a charity Wednesday morning but were killed by security guards before they could detonate their explosives-laden vests, an official said.

One foreign employee was wounded in the attack on the office of International Relief and Development in the town of Lashkar Gah, said Dawood Ahmadi, spokesman for the government in Helmand province.

Two gunmen wearing suicide vests burst into the compound that houses the charity’s office. The first was shot by security guards and the second returned fire and was killed in the ensuing gunbattle, Ahmadi said. The offices are next to a government education department and officials initially thought that office was also under attack.

Lashkar Gah is the closest major town to Marjah, where thousands of NATO troops have been fighting to oust the Taliban from their largest stronghold and operational hub in Helmand province.

Two British soldiers were killed on Tuesday by an explosion in Helmand, Britain’s Ministry of Defense said Wednesday.

The ministry said the soldiers from The Royal Anglian Regiment died in the blast in the Musa Qala area of Helmand province, raising the total number of British military personnel killed in action in Afghanistan to 242.

Also on Tuesday, a government official who was working to enhance the effectiveness of governance in Afghanistan, was assassinated in Ghazni province in eastern Afghanistan.

Jawid, director of the reform administration in the area who used only one name, was walking toward his home when he was approached by two insurgents, according to Abdul Ghani, deputy governor of the province. One opened fire and killed the official, who was on foot after his motorbike broke down, Ghani said.

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