Blast hits crowd of Afghan kids

Kandahar, September 18 :

A suicide bomber blew himself up in a crowd of children clamouring to get pens and books from Canadian troops in Afghanistan today, killing four NATO soliders and a number of civilians, police and NATO said.

Police said around two dozen children were also hurt by the blast that struck a Canadian patrol in volatile Kandahar province, a day after NATO said it had successfully completed a major anti-Taliban operation nearby.

The extremist Taliban movement said it carried out the suicide attack. “What I can confirm is four ISAF soldiers were killed,” Major Quentin Innis, a spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), told AFP. Others were wounded but he could not yet say how many.

“There were a number of Afghan civilians that were also killed,” Innis said without giving a figure.

A witness said the bomber had ridden a a bicycle into a crowd of laughing children as they gathered around the soldiers at the scene, around 35 km west of Kandahar.

“Kids were running towards the Canadian convoy because they were giving out pens and notebooks to the children,” bystander Mohammed Karim told AFP. “There was a crowd of kids laughing and shouting, “Give me one, give me one.” At this time a man riding on a bicycle approached the crowd and detonated in the crowd.

ISAF does not comment on the nationalities of its casualties until the information has been released by their home nation. However police at the scene of the blast said four Canadian soldiers were killed and 10 wounded. “Also 24 kids were wounded with four of them in a very critical condition,” a district-level police official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

An ISAF statement said an “improvised explosive device attack caused multiple casualties to an ISAF patrol operating in Kandahar province. Local civilians also suffered injuries from the blast”.

The interior ministry in the capital Kabul also said the blast was a suicide attack. “It inflicted both civilian and military casualties,” interior ministry spokesman Zemaray Bashari said. He also identified the patrol as Canadian.

A purported Taliban spokesman said the movement had carried out the bombing and said that 10 Canadian soldiers had been killed.