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Official: Market Blast Was Accident

December 21, 2001

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MAZAR-E-SHARIF, Afghanistan (AP) _ A grenade explosion that wounded about 100 people in a crowded marketplace in this northern Afghan city was an accident, not a terrorist act, a senior police official said Friday.

``The bazaar was very crowded,″ said Gen. Shujaddin, who uses only one name. ``A grenade fell off of a soldier accidentally and some people were injured. This was not terrorism. This was an accident.″

Shujaddin said the explosion occurred Thursday at about 4 p.m. in a moneychangers’ section of the Kefayat market. The police official said he didn’t know where the soldier is now, or whether any arrests had been made.

Still, some officials and nervous residents believed terrorists may be responsible.

``People here are very worried. We think that terrorists did this. They want to disrupt the good government,″ moneychanger Abdul Wase said Friday.

``It could be those who are still close to the Taliban who don’t want the northern alliance to be in power,″ said Mohammed Anwar Akhjoh, head of a prominent Shiite party in the northern alliance, which seized Mazar-e-Sharif last month.

The bazaar was packed with curious gawkers talking about the explosion Friday. A few moneychangers did business, but the market was mostly closed as usual for the Muslim day of rest.

People looked at pools of blood as workers began cleaning.

In the public hospital, about 30 people were being treated, mainly for shrapnel wounds. The hospital has limited equipment. One man’s injured leg was suspended with wire, secured by bricks.

Mazar-e-Sharif, the largest city in the north with about 200,000 people, was the first major Taliban-held city to fall. Northern alliance fighters captured it Nov. 9 with help from U.S. Special Forces and heavy American airstrikes.

The United Nations said more than 100 Taliban fighters who tried to take cover at a school in Mazar-e-Sharif were killed when alliance fighters took the city.

Later, Taliban prisoners brought to a fortress just outside the town rebelled, and it took three days of bloody fighting to supress the uprising.

Update hourly