October 28 2001
Bus wreckage testament to stray US attack
THE wreck of the red Mercedes bus stood abandoned in the bus station in Kandahar last week - another example of what the Taliban claim to be the increasingly erratic allied bombing in Afghanistan, writes Mirwais Khan in Kandahar.
The front of the vehicle had been blown off by a direct hit, apparently from a missile, rocket or small bomb. Although peppered by shrapnel, the rear was identifiable and it was possible to pick out where Mohammed Pervaiz, 27, a labourer, had taken his seat at 4am on Thursday to begin the gruelling 15-hour journey to Kabul.
The bus never made it beyond the densely populated area of small mud houses in the southern part of Kandahar, the Taliban stronghold in the south of Afghanistan. Soon after Pervaiz and a handful of other passengers had taken their seats, the explosion struck. The driver and several passengers were apparently killed instantly. Shrapnel injured several people waiting in the bus station and damaged a nearby bath house.
Witnesses said they feared that warplanes had been attracted by the glimmer as the bus turned on its headlights.
"It's all a blur," said Pervaiz as he lay in the local hospital, nursing injuries to his legs. "I sat down and remember at least two other people getting on board, but then I drifted off to sleep." One of the other passengers, he recalled, was a teenage boy.
All he remembered after that was a flash and bang of an explosion before waking up in hospital.
Yesterday, 48 hours on, the remains of the bus were towed away. The Taliban, seizing on the incident as proof of "indiscriminate" American bombing, claimed 10 people had died.
Doctors in Kandahar hospital spoke of seven or eight dead, with as many again injured. The Pentagon has declined to comment.
Independent verification of what happened and how many were killed was impossible: the bodies were no longer in the mortuary.
What appeared beyond doubt at the site, however, was that the bus with civilians on board had been hit.
It followed two other incidents in and around Kandahar last week. Three people were feared to have been killed on Monday when an oil tanker was hit. There were also believed to have been casualties during an attack on a nearby village.
Adha Gul Dost, a surgeon at the hospital, said about 100 injured people had been brought in over the past few days. The chance of survival for many were bleak.
"We don't have enough medicine and we are badly in need of blood," he said.
America, which portrays its strikes against the Taliban and the Al-Qaeda terrorist network as precise, has dismissed as propaganda Taliban claims that more than 1,000 civilians have died in the three weeks of bombing. It admits to only a few targeting errors.