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Over 50 killed in hijacked oil tank blast in N Afghanistan: officials

2009-09-04 16:40 BJT

KABUL, Sept. 4 (Xinhua) -- At least 50 people were killed in the wee hours of Friday when two fuel tanker hijacked by Taliban militants blew off in northern Afghan province of Kunduz, said officials.

It occurred at around 1:45 a.m. when Taliban militants hijacked two fuel tankers and wanted to take them to far-flung area in Aliabad district, police chief of Aliabad Bariali Basharyar told Xinhua.

However, the vehicles, taken by the militants from the highway connecting Kunduz with the neighboring province of Baghlan, stuck in a river in Aliabad district, said the provincial governor, Mohammad Omar.

Villagers nearby rushed to the site to pick up fuel when the two tankers exploded, Omar added.

"At least 50 people have been confirmed dead in the blast but it is too early to tell the final figure," he said.

Omar added it is difficult to give the death toll because many bodies have been taken by villagers, but he said the number is expected to rise.

The governor said the cause of the explosion was not immediately known, however, the district police chief Basharyar earlier said there was an air strike of international forces targeting Taliban militants in that area.

Basharyar said at least 27 Taliban militants were killed in the blast.

German troops based in Kunduz province, according to media reports, have confirmed the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) sent fighter jets combating Taliban militants and they said some 56 militants were killed.

Continuous civilian casualties during the battle against militants have become a sensitive issue in Afghanistan as NATO chief Commander Stanely McChrystal has vowed to avoid non-combatant casualties in military operations.

Editor: Zhang Pengfei | Source: Xinhua