Taliban Denies Part in Kandahar Bombing

The Taliban has denied responsibility for what is being called the worst bombing in Afghanistan's history, in which at least 80 people were killed and dozens more wounded by a suicide bomber's blast at a dog-fighting event. Still, many in the area are convinced that the Taliban played a role in the killing.

Afghans believe the target of the bombing was a prominent tribal leader who opposed the Taliban. The man, Abdul Hakim Jan, was also the leader of a local militia.

Funerals have already begun in Kandahar, where the governor expressed outrage at the attack.

An exact death count has been difficult to determine, partly because family members and survivors carried off the bodies from the blast site, in order to hold funerals. Under Islamic law, bodies are to be buried within 24 hours.

At Least 80 Killed in Afghanistan Suicide Bombing

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Two Afghan police pickups and Abdul Hakim Jan's SUV are damaged at the site of a suicide attack in Kandahar, Afghanistan, Feb. 17. 2008. Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR

Two Afghan police pickups and Abdul Hakim Jan's SUV are damaged at the site of a suicide attack in Kandahar, Afghanistan, Feb. 17. 2008.

Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR

At least 80 people have been killed in a suicide attack at a dog-fighting arena in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Scores of wounded and dead were ferried by the truckload to the main hospital in Kandahar. Doctors counted 70 bodies at the hospital, but say many more were carried away from the blast site by relatives for a quick burial as prescribed by Islam.

Outside the hospital, police appealed to Kandaharis to donate blood for the wounded. Doctors were overwhelmed by the number of casualties, and were treating the injured on the floors and in the hallways.

The morning attack happened a half-hour drive from the western edge of Kandahar. Many of the victims were attending a dog fight, a favorite and legal sport in Afghanistan. Nearby, vendors sold chickens and fruit while people picnicked.

The bomber, who was apparently sent by the Taliban, slipped into this crowd reportedly in search of Abdul Hakim Jan, a powerful tribal elder and former Kandahar police chief at war with the militant group. Fighting the Taliban is something many tribal elders here in southern Afghanistan are afraid to do.

Witnesses say the bomber got within 15 feet of his target before using a wire and clicker to detonate his explosives.

Hakim Jan has not been found, although he is presumed dead.

Witnesses say panicked police opened fire after the bombing, causing some of the casualties.

Hours later, the site of the blast is still littered with prayer caps, shoes and puddles of blood. Also left behind are the twisted hulls of two police pickups and Hakim Jan's SUV.

Many Kandaharis fear that the death of Hakim Jan will clear the way for the Taliban to move into his district near Kandahar, giving militants easier access to targets in Afghanistan's second largest city.



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