A bomb planted on a road ripped through a minibus in eastern Afghanistan and killed seven passengers, the interior ministry said, blaming the attack on insurgents. Today's blast was in the eastern province of Khost, which has seen a series of attacks during the past week, including a bombing over the weekend that killed two men. "There was an IED (improvised explosive device) planted by the enemies of the people of Afghanistan that hit the vehicle," the ministry spokesman Zemarai Bashary said.
"As a result seven civilians, including a woman, were killed and nine other civilians wounded," he said. The bus was about 20 kilometres from Khost city when it was hit by the bomb. The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force said its initial information was that 20 people were killed or wounded in the blast. "There was a civilian vehicle that was stuck by an IED and we believe it may have been a bus," a spokesman Sergeant Sonny Cohrs said.
"There are an estimated 20 casualties but we don't know if they are dead or wounded." During the past week Afghanistan has seen a surge of attacks coinciding with the arrival of spring, traditionally when fighting picks up in the war-wracked country. Last year was the deadliest of an insurgency led by the extremist Taliban group that ruled Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001, when they were removed in a US-led invasion.
Nearly 2,200 civilians were killed in 2008, most of them in insurgent attacks, according to the United Nations. About 5,000 insurgents were also killed, according to international military figures. US President Barack Obama, who has switched the focus of the "war on terror" from Iraq to Afghanistan, has ordered 17,000 more US troops for Afghanistan, where there are already about 75,000 soldiers under US and Nato command.
He is also preparing to roll out a major new strategy for the embattled nation in a bid to turn around a stagnant war seven years after the invasion. Mr Obama said on Tuesday the strategy would be more "focused", "disciplined" and "comprehensive" than the previous US anti-terror effort. It was important to stay on the "offence" against a terror threat that was not going away, he said, also stressing the need for better diplomatic and development strategy as part of a wider global effort in the war zone.
His National Security Adviser James Jones said the United States will ask Europe to increase non-military aid to Afghanistan at a meeting in the Netherlands at the end of March and at the Nato summit in early April. "We are going to ask our friends to think about civil reconstruction because we have not had the cohesion and the joint effort up until now," he said. *AFP