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Dozens killed, wounded in Afghan tanker blaze

world Updated: Oct 26, 2011 13:21 IST

At least 10 Afghan civilians were killed and 35 wounded on a road near a major US base after a small bomb punctured a hole in the side of a fuel tanker that was later engulfed by a large blaze, eyewitnesses and officials said on Wednesday.

The tanker started leaking after the initial small blast on Tuesday night and people from nearby Rabat village, including children, rushed to collect some of the oil. Shortly after, the whole tanker went up in flames, an eyewitness said.

"I heard a small explosion and when I went outside, I saw a tanker was leaking fuel," said Ajmal, a 35 year-old farmer whose house is close to the explosion.

"A few minutes later people came with buckets and jugs to collect fuel when suddenly everywhere was on fire," he said.

Roshna Khalid, a spokeswoman for the provincial governor, said the bomb had been stuck to the side of the tanker with a magnet. There were 10 dead and 35 wounded in hospitals in Parwan province, north of Kabul, and in the capital, she said.

Five civilian cars and five motorcycles were burnt and the flames also singed trees in orchards near the road.

The Parwan governor blamed insurgents. "This was a terrorist attack and a magnet bomb was placed on a fuel tanker that exploded," said governor Abdul Basir Salangi.

The Taliban could not be reached immediately for comment.

The tanker was about 3 km (2 miles) from Bagram Airfield, one of the largest military bases for NATO-led forces in Afghanistan, when it exploded.

Bagram, about 50 km (30 miles) north of Kabul, has a long history as a military base dating back to the Soviet era.

Afghan security forces have prevented at least two similar explosions near Bagram in the past three months, Khalid said.

Small explosive devices blasted holes in two tankers in Qarabagh district of Kabul province but security forces prevented people from approaching the vehicles to collect fuel, she said.

A fuel tanker fireball in 2009 was one of the deadliest single incidents of the war for Afghan civilians.

A US warplane summoned by German troops fired on hijacked trucks before dawn, killing as many as 90 people, many of them villagers siphoning off fuel.

NATO initially said it believed the casualties were all Taliban fighters, but later acknowledged that large numbers of wounded civilians were being treated in hospitals in the area.