Bus Hits Land Mine In S. Afghanistan; Death Toll Rising; Many Civilian Victims

A bus packed with civilians hit a land mine in southern Afghanistan today and at least 30 people were killed by the resulting blast, authorities tell the Associated Press.

According to the AP, Kandahar provincial police chief Sardar Mohammad Zazai says nine women and seven children are among the dead. Agence France Presse says it has been told that 10 children and seven women died.

At least another 39 people are said to have been wounded, AP reports.

The death toll has risen sharply in just the last few hours. Earlier, officials were estimating that 12 people had been killed and about 15 wounded.

Update at 7:50 a.m. ET. From Kabul, NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports that Afghan soldiers and passersby took the wounded to hospitals in Kandahar. The most seriously injured were taken to a NATO-run hospital. Soraya says the bus was traveling from the western Afghan city of Herat to Kabul. Meanwhile, in western Afghanistan a joint U.S.-Afghan force is said to have killed about 30 anti-government fighters in new fighting:

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Earlier this morning, NPR's Scott Horsley filed this report about the strategy sessions President Barack Obama is holding regarding what to do next in Afghanistan:

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On Morning Edition:

— NPR's Jackie Northam reported that Obama's aides say now is the time to stop and ask key questions about the strategy to pursue in Afghanistan:

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— NPR's Julie McCarthy, reporting from Islamabad, reported that some Pakistanis fear the U.S. is about to pull out of Afghanistan and are nervous about what that could mean for their country:

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— Host Renee Montagne talked with The New Yorker's George Packer about Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Packer says Holbrooke's oversized personality is both a help and a hindrance:

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