An explosion in a crowded bazaar near a convoy of U.S. troops in northeastern Afghanistan killed one Afghan child Tuesday and wounded about 50 people, many of them children, officials said. Three U.S. troops were wounded in the blast.
A spokesman for the NATO-led force said that initial reports indicated that an insurgent threw a grenade into the crowd in Kunar province. The provincial governor said that U.S. troops showed him fragments of a Russian-made grenade, an implication that someone in the crowd caused the blast.
Witnesses and at least one government official alleged that U.S. troops threw a grenade, but police did not confirm those claims.
The spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force said that the troops stopped in the town of Asadabad, possibly because of a flat tire, and came under attack once they exited the vehicle. The spokesman declined to give his name because he is not authorized to speak to the media on the record.
Many children injured
A hospital official who goes by one name, Dr. Afizullah, said 54 Afghans were wounded in the blast and many were children from a nearby school. Education officials said about 15 children were wounded.
Kunar Gov. Sayed Fazelullah Wahidi said that three Americans were wounded in the incident, one seriously.
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.
Kunar's provincial police chief, Abdul Jalal Jalal, said someone threw a grenade into the crowd and officials were investigating the assailant's identity.
Suspicion among Afghans immediately fell on the Americans. An eyewitness in the bazaar, Abullah Sadat, told The Associated Press by telephone that a U.S. soldier had thrown a grenade.
Mohammad Asif Nang, the spokesman for the country's education ministry in Kabul, also blamed the Americans for throwing a grenade. He said he got his information from officials in Kunar.
Civilian casualties have long been a source of tension between the Afghan government and U.S. and NATO troops. President Hamid Karzai has pleaded with U.S. officials to reduce the number of civilian casualties.
American officials say that Taliban militants purposely try to cause civilian casualties that can be blamed on U.S. forces as a propaganda tool to turn ordinary Afghans against the international military effort.