| ||Deadly Blasts at Afghan Oil and Gas Depot|
The New York Times
By Graham Bowley and Jawad Sukhanwar
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KABUL — Powerful explosions of oil and gas tankers at a depot on the northeastern outskirts of Kabul devastated stores and homes on Wednesday and left at least three people dead and more than 80 injured, according to police and hospital officials.
The police said they had not identified the exact cause of the explosions, including whether it was accidental or related to terrorist activity.
The blasts hit midafternoon at the depot of the Haidarzada Gas and Oil Company and sent black clouds and flames billowing over the district, a mixture of residential areas and small compounds where some businesses are located.
Ambulances and fire rescue workers crowded the streets, helping the injured from buildings past broken glass, rubble and the charred remains of cars and tankers. “When we heard the bang and saw the flames I started running and didn’t know where to go,” said Ahmad Shah, a driver for a neighboring oil and gas company, who was lying in the back of an ambulance. “I don’t know how many are caught in there.”
The police were still searching the district on Wednesday evening, and said it was too early to give an accurate estimate of the casualties, although some officials said the death toll would be likely to rise.
“The area is completely under smoke and it is difficult for us and the rescue teams to search for people,” said Gen. Mohammad Ayoub Salangi, the Kabul chief of police. “We still don’t know if this was caused by the fuel tanker explosions or if it was related to any terrorist activities.”
Mohammad Musa Zaher, general manager of nursing at Wazir Akbar Khan Hospital in central Kabul, said that hospital alone had received 20 people who had been wounded and three people who had been killed in the fire and explosions.
In the latest in a worrying spate of attacks by Afghan soldiers and police officers on their coalition allies, an Afghan soldier opened fire on NATO soldiers in western Afghanistan, wounding five of them before fleeing, officials said.
In confirming the shooting, NATO coalition officials would not give details on the nationality of the wounded soldiers, but Afghan officials said they were American.
The attack took place on Tuesday afternoon in Wardak Province to the west of the capital, Kabul. Shahidullah Shahid, spokesman for the governor of Wardak, said the Afghan soldier entered a small NATO base near a village in the Sayed Abad district of Wardak before turning his gun on the American soldiers.
The latest attack comes only two days after three British soldiers were killed by a member of the Afghan police force in southern Helmand Province. Afghan soldiers and police officers have attacked American and other coalition counterparts with rising frequency even as the international forces, preparing for withdrawal, have been training them to fight on their own.
Afghan police officers or soldiers have so far killed 26 coalition service members this year, compared with 35 in all of 2011, according to the coalition. NATO officials blame tensions arising from cultural and other personal differences, not Taliban infiltration, for most of the shootings.
A Wardak official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk publicly on the matter said the Afghan soldier was a member of the Afghan National Army and was from Kunduz Province.