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Karl Penhaul: Kandahar last

CNN's Karl Penhaul
CNN's Karl Penhaul

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KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) -- A land mine blew up a bus Friday in southern Afghanistan, killing at least 18 people.

The bus was carrying villagers to market when it struck a land mine south of Kandahar. Authorities are blaming the explosion on remnants of the Taliban and forces loyal to an Islamic fundamentalist warlord.

Reporting from the capital, Kabul, CNN Correspondent Karl Penhaul spoke Friday with CNN Anchor Carol Costello about the attack.

PENHAUL: There's still confusion about the exact numbers of dead and that, local authorities say, is because of the scene of utter devastation there ... on the highway south of the city of Kandahar. The bus was traveling along a highway toward a village when it traveled over a land mine. The land mine exploded. The bus was wrecked.

Local authorities are blaming followers of Gulbedin Hekmatyar, a renegade warlord who has since allied himself with Taliban and al Qaeda remnants. They're blaming him for the attack.

We spoke earlier to regional military commander Khan Mohammed Khan. He said that his report showed eight dead, two injured. That was based, he said, on a conversation with the bus driver, who survived the blast, who said he had 10 passengers at that time. However, the spokesman for the regional governor, Khalid Pashtoon, has told us that there could be up to 18 dead. So, like I say, Carol, still some uncertainty over the exact number of victims.

COSTELLO: You know, Karl, it seems right now that violence is increasing in Afghanistan. Is it or is it just because we haven't been paying as close attention to it now?

PENHAUL: I think what we can see is that there is or appears to be a marked increase in violence in eastern and southeast Afghanistan in the border region with Pakistan. Authorities are saying that this is due to this renegade warlord Gulbedin Hekmatyar, who's organizing a guerrilla campaign -- still a low-level guerrilla campaign but nevertheless somewhat more coordinated.

And since he's now allied himself with Taliban and al Qaeda fighters left after the U.S. or the mass U.S. campaign here over the last year, then they're reorganizing themselves and launching attacks both on American bases in the border region but also on civilians.


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