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US troops accused of blast attack at bazaar

AN explosion in a crowded bazaar near a convoy of United States Army troops in northeastern Afghanistan killed one Afghan teenager yesterday and wounded more than 50 people, many of them children, officials said.

Three US troops were wounded in the blast.

A US military spokesman said someone in a nearby building threw a grenade into the crowd in Asadabad, the capital of Kunar province, but witnesses and the spokesman for Afghanistan's Education Ministry alleged that US troops threw a grenade.

Police did not confirm those claims and the provincial governor said US troops had shown him fragments of a Russian-made grenade.

US military spokesman Chief Petty Officer Brian Naranjo said that as soon as US officials heard allegations that an American soldier may have thrown a grenade, the officials "immediately went back to the operational people and very seriously went through and looked for any possibility that it could have been thrown by a coalition member."

"Based on everything we saw, that grenade was not one of ours," Naranjo said. "It was thrown by someone from a building nearby."

A US statement said the American troops - who are in the country to help train the Afghan army - also came under gunfire attack. Three soldiers were wounded in the attack, Naranjo said.

A 14-year-old boy - a student at a madrassa, or religious school - died in the attack, said Essanullah Fazli, the chief of Asadabad's hospital. He said most of the wounded suffered light injuries.

A doctor said 54 Afghans were wounded in the blast and many were children from a nearby school. Education officials said about 15 children were wounded.

The explosion took place in a crowded bazaar near a school and mosque. Afghan officials said the American convoy had broken down because of a flat tire and a crowd had gathered.

American officials say Taliban militants purposely try to cause civilian casualties that can be blamed on US forces as a propaganda tool to turn ordinary Afghans against the international military effort.


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