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Death toll from Afghan blast revised down to 35

The Taliban denied responsibility for the blast.

The attack happened in Logar province near the capital Kabul
The attack happened in Logar province near the capital Kabul
Image: via Google Satellite

A SUICIDE BOMBER blew up his sport utility vehicle outside a small clinic in eastern Afghanistan on Saturday, bringing the building down on those inside, Afghan authorities said. At least 35 people were reported killed.

Earlier reports had put the death toll at at least 60 but this now appears to have been inaccurate.

Would-be rescuers were frantically digging through the rubble in search of survivors trapped in the collapsed 10-bed clinic, said Mohammad Zaref Nayebkhail, the provincial health director.

The Taliban, authors of many bombings in this war-ravaged land, denied responsibility for this one. Zabiullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the movement, told The Associated Press in a phone interview that “this attack was not done by our fighters.”

Health Director Nayebkhail said guards had tried to prevent the attacker from driving his SUV into the medical compound, in the mountainous Azra district of Logar province, 25 miles east of Kabul.

“The driver didn’t stop and he entered the compound and reached the main building of the health center, where the truck detonated,” he said.

Nayebkhail said at least 35 people were killed and at least 53 were wounded in the blast.

He said an Afghan army helicopter was dispatched to the area to deliver medical supplies and to ferry survivors to other hospitals. He said the clinic had recently been expanded to meet the health needs of the far-flung district’s population.

Late Friday, another blast — this one caused by a bicycle rigged with explosives — had ripped through a bazaar in the Khanabad district of Kunduz province in northern Afghanistan, killing at least 10 people, including a police officer. At least 24 people were wounded in the attack, according to an Interior Ministry statement.

The bombings were the latest episodes in a recent escalation of violence in Afghanistan. They followed President Barack Obama’s announcement Wednesday that he plans to withdraw 10,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year. NATO officials say Afghan armed forces will be ready to take over more security duties, and by 2014 the Afghan government will be prepared for full sovereignty.

The French government reported, meanwhile, that a French soldier was killed after coming under fire from insurgents while on a reconnaissance mission east of Kabul.

The death brings to 47 the number of NATO service members killed in June, and to more than 200 those killed this year, slightly fewer than last year’s six-month total.

But as violence raged in the provinces, Kabul plunged deeper into a constitutional crisis as Afghanistan’s legislature, upset over a controversial electoral investigation, passed a no-confidence resolution on Saturday against the nation’s most senior judges, two days after doing the same for the attorney general.

Both votes were protests of the findings of a special investigative tribunal that invalidated the victories of 62 lawmakers because of alleged improper voting procedures and fraud.

The tribunal was requested by the attorney general, endorsed by the supreme court and approved by President Hamid Karzai.

Some parliament members characterize its findings as an unconstitutional power grab by Karzai and his appointees.

Two-term parliament member Fawza Kofi, not among those named in the tribunal’s report, supported the no-confidence votes.

“The tribunal didn’t deal with any criminal issues, rather it just invalidated the votes of the people,” she said.

She acknowledged the parliamentary vote was largely symbolic, since the body has no power to remove the judges or attorney general. Abdul Malik Kamawi, chief executive of the supreme court, said the votes were unconstitutional and would be ignored.

Deputy Attorney General Rahmatullah Nazery also dismissed the no-confidence votes as illegitimate, since some of the lawmakers had been discredited by the special tribunal. Nazery said his office will refer the tribunal’s findings to the Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan, which will have the final word on whether to replace the lawmakers.

- AP

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