September 4, 2009 12:20:24 pm
NATO launched an airstrike on two fuel tankers hijacked by Taliban militants in northern Afghanistan,sparking a huge blast that killed up to 90 people,including 40 civilians,Afghan officials said Friday.
Militants seized the two trucks,which were delivering fuel to NATO forces,around midnight near the village of Omar Khel in Kunduz province,and the alliance launched an airstrike when the Taliban fighters stopped the vehicles at a river crossing,Police Chief Gulam Mohyuddin said.
One police official estimated at least 90 people were killed,and that 40 of them were civilians,including some who were receiving fuel being distributed by militants at the crossing. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of sensitivity over the issue of civilian deaths in the Afghan conflict.
Kunduz Gov. Mohammad Omar of Kunduz also reported 90 dead,but gave no breakdown.
NATO confirmed that there was an airstrike in Kunduz overnight but gave no details. A spokesman said the coalition was investigating the incident.
Omar said the dead included the Taliban commander for several Kunduz districts,Abdur Rahman,several other senior Taliban and four Chechen fighters.
“Abudur Rahman is a very dangerous man,” the governor said. “I hope that the death of Abdur Rahman will have a positive effect on Kunduz city.”
Officials said that at least 12 people were hospitalised.
Omar said villagers heard jets before the tankers exploded,but that some of them thought the tankers had been hit by rocket-propelled grenades. He said most of the bodies were badly burned.
The hijackings are a symptom of the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan.
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