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Accidental blast levels shops in Kabul

/ Source: The Associated Press

A huge blast at a gunpowder store in central Kabul destroyed several shops and houses early Wednesday, killing at least four people, police said.

Deputy city police chief Zulmay Khan said the explosion was caused by gunpowder in shops selling ammunition for hunting rifles.

Ali Shah Paktiawal, the criminal director of Kabul police, had said earlier that it was a car bomb, and had killed at least four or five people. But after further investigation, Paktiawal said it “was not a terrorist act.”

At least three others were wounded and were pulled from the rubble of collapsed mud-brick buildings and put into waiting ambulances. People, including crying relatives, used their hands and shovels to dig through the debris for more feared trapped inside.

The blast threw piles of burning wreckage into the street and windows were shattered for hundreds of yards around.

Khali Abdul Wahid, a leader in the area, said that there were 400 shops near the blast site, and at least 100 were destroyed or damaged.

A reporter on the scene said that at least 20 shops were completely destroyed.

Most of the shops were shut at the time of the blast around 6:30 a.m. in part of the city where many buildings are already ruined from years of conflict.

Khan said most of the casualties were caused by houses collapsing in the explosion.

Mahmadullah, 22, had been opening his shop when the explosion caused his shop to collapse on him. Rescuers pulled him out alive from the rubble.

His father, Mohammad Ashim, had a cut on his nose and on his head, and stood barefoot outside on the rubble. He said his other son also was wounded.

Lt. Col. Angela Billings, a spokesman for NATO’s International Security Assistance Force, said the incident happened south of the ISAF headquarters in Kabul, and there were no ISAF casualties.