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Taliban deny role in southern Afghan attack

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[August 26, 2009]  KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AP) -- A Taliban spokesman denied any responsibility Wednesday for a major bombing that killed dozens of people in southern Afghanistan's largest city, saying the militant group condemns the attack.

The explosion ripped through a central area of Kandahar city just after nightfall, killing at least 43 people and wounding 65, according to the Interior Ministry. It flattened buildings and sent flames shooting into the sky on the same day that the first preliminary results were released from last week's landmark presidential vote.

Rescue workers were still pulling out injured people on Wednesday.

"There are some people still trapped in the buildings and we are trying to get them out," Mohammad Darwish, one of the rescue workers.

The thundering blast occurred in a district that includes U.N. facilities and an Afghan intelligence office.


Kandahar is the spiritual home of the Taliban and the city was hit by rockets on the morning of election day as Taliban militants made good on threats to try to disrupt last Thursday's polling with violence.

However, the group said it had no involvement in the most recent attack.

"We are denying responsibility, and condemn this attack in which innocent civilians were killed," Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi wrote in a text message sent to an Associated Press reporter.

The Interior Ministry said the blast was from remote-controlled explosives planted in a truck. Local officials have said a cluster of vehicle bombs detonated nearly simultaneously near a Japanese construction firm that is involved in reconstruction efforts in the southern Afghan city. The company recently took over a contract to build a road that insurgents had stalled for several months.

An Afghan employee of the international Red Cross was killed in the explosion, the group said. Abdul Wadood, a water engineer, was at home when the blast caused his ceiling to collapse, it said.

"Last night's blast is yet another indication of the suffering that civilians all over Afghanistan have to endure," the Red Cross said in a statement. It said its doctors were helping to treat the injured.

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The violence came as Afghans heard the first fragmented returns of the presidential vote, putting President Hamid Karzai and his main rival, former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, virtually even. The figures, from 10 percent of more than 27,000 polling stations nationwide, raised the possibility of a runoff that could drag the process out for months.

Meanwhile, a provincial official was killed in northern Afghanistan Wednesday by a bomb planted in his car, authorities said.

Sayed Jahangir, the justice ministry director for Kunduz province was driving to work in the provincial capital when his vehicle exploded, said Ahmad Sami Yawar, a spokesman for the provincial governor. Yawar said he did not know why Jahangir would have been targeted, other than his role as a government official.

[Associated Press; By NOOR KHAN]

Associated Press writer Amir Shah in Kabul contributed to this report.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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