Image: Afghan men walk near site of Kabul bomb blast.
Ahmad Masood  /  Reuters
Afghan men walk near the site where a powerful bomb explosion occurred in Kabul, on Sunday, killing up to 12 people, including three Americans.
msnbc.com news services
updated 8/31/2004 7:40:33 AM ET 2004-08-31T11:40:33

Afghan security forces seized more than half a ton of explosives just outside the capital Kabul and arrested three men a day after a car bomb killed up to 12 people in the city, including three Americans, intelligence sources said on Tuesday.

The Taliban, the former rulers of the country, said they were responsible for Sunday's bombing of a security company and have vowed to carry out more attacks ahead of a presidential election in October and parliamentary polls next year.

The bombing came hours after another explosion killed at least nine people, eight of them children, at a school in southeastern Afghanistan, underlining the country's fragile security as it moves toward the Oct. 9 vote.

Monday's swoop netted 1,320 lbs. of explosives from two houses in a village on the southern outskirts of Kabul.

Fire at site of blast as Afghan and foreign security assess the situation in Kabul
Ahmad Masood  /  Reuters
A fire burns Sunday at the site of one explosion as Afghan and foreign security forces assess the situation, in Kabul. Several people were killed on Sunday by two powerful blasts in the Afghan capital.

That amount is three times the quantity of explosives used in Sunday's blast.

Thousands of U.S.-led troops are hunting Taliban militants and their al-Qaida allies. The Taliban have vowed to rid Afghanistan of forces allied to the United States and topple the Western-backed government of President Hamid Karzai.

"Three Afghans were arrested in this seizure of explosive and are suspected to have links with Hekmatyar," an intelligence officer said, referring to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a hard-line Islamist militant also allied to the Taliban.

Warplanes bombard remote village
Meantime, U.S. warplanes bombarded a remote village in eastern Afghanistan, killing several people, after assailants attacked a nearby government office, an official said Tuesday.

The incident began late Monday when assailants fired 25 rockets at the mayor’s office in Mano Gai, 105 miles east of the capital, Kabul, said Sayed Fazel Akbar, the governor of Kunar province. Police responded with small arms fire, he said.

“Then the American planes came and bombarded Weradesh village,” from where the rockets had been launched, he said. “There are casualties there, but we don’t know how many or if they are civilians or the enemy.”

U.S. military officials had no immediate comment.

Akbar declined to elaborate on who might have launched the attack. But the area is considered a stronghold of militants loyal to Hekmatyar.

U.S. forces man a small camp just a few miles away at Nangalam that has come under repeated attack.

“They are like thieves,” Akbar said. “They come and fight for five minutes and then escape.”

More than 1,000 people, including militants, election officials, soldiers and aid workers, have died in violence over the past year, with many attacks occurring in Afghanistan's south and east where the Taliban are strongest.

Americans told to limit movements
On Monday, the U.S. Embassy e-mailed Americans in Kabul to tell them to limit their movements, take strict security measures and avoid "potential target areas" such as government offices, NATO bases and restaurants.

IMAGE: Afghan security guard patrol
Emilio Morenatti  /  AP
Security guard members patrol the area Monday, following Sunday's explosion in Kabul.
U.N. staff were also ordered to keep off the streets as much as possible.

Mullah Hakim Latifi, a man who claims to speak for the Taliban, said one of its members carried out the Kabul attack with a time-bomb loaded in a vehicle, and warned that more attacks would follow.

"Taliban began trying to place a bomb in this area three days ago, and finally they have succeeded," Latifi told The Associated Press by telephone from an undisclosed location.

"We appeal to civilians to stay away from the elections and places where the Americans and coalition are living and working," he said. "They are our priority targets."

His claim could not be verified independently.

There was confusion about the number of people killed in the attack, but it appeared to be the worst in Kabul since a car bomb killed 30 Afghans and wounded 150 on Sept. 5, 2002.

Karzai's office said late Sunday that two Americans, three Nepalese and two Afghan nationals were confirmed dead.

But on Monday, Lt. Cdr. Ken Mackillop, a spokesman for NATO troops in Afghanistan, said the bodies of three Americans and three Afghans were at the international force's field hospital.

He said two Nepalese and one American were being treated at the German-run facility in the capital.

Mackillop said other dead may have been taken elsewhere.

Afghan officials said three or four bodies were at an Afghan military hospital, including one apparent foreigner, but had few details. As many as 20 people were wounded, they said.

None of the victims was named.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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