Afghans pay tribute to bomb victims

Kandahar - Afghans on Thursday slaughtered eight bulls in a public sacrifice at a bomb site to pay tribute to 43 civilians killed in the country's worst militant attack in over a year.

The massive truck bomb wounded another 65 people, almost all civilians, brought down buildings, trapped people under rubble and destroyed homes and shops in Afghanistan's largest southern city Kandahar on Tuesday.

Hundreds of citizens paid tribute to the dead and wounded at a mourning ceremony conducted at the bomb site, where Afghan police removed the security cordon to allow shocked residents to stumble through the destruction.

Public slaughtering of bulls is a tradition at times of both mourning and celebration in Afghanistan, particularly in the south. The meat is distributed to the poor.

Men bound the hooves of eight bulls, forced them down onto the rubble and sliced open their throats. Thick red blood gushed over the dusty debris in the sacrifice watched by hundreds of mourners.

Local Mohammad Nabi described the bomb damage as "the most horrific I have ever seen" as around him civilians using only shovels began the arduous task of clearing away the enormous mounds of rubble that was their shops and homes.

"Even during the Russians, I never heard such a big explosion. When it happened, the earth shook beneath my feet," he said referring to the 1978-1989 Soviet invasion during which a million were killed and millions emigrated.

"I cannot believe it," said resident Mohammad Ashraf. "I heard the blast. It was the biggest explosion I ever heard but I didn't think it would cause this much damage."

As visitors walked through the destruction shaking their heads in grief, shopkeepers tried to recover goods from the debris and men covered in dust tried to remove some of the rubble, an AFP reporter said.

One elderly man, wearing a traditional turban and shalwar khamis, was so overcome by the heat and the damage that he merely sat down on the rubble.

Kandahar mayor Ghulam Haidar addressed the ceremony, blaming the attack on the "enemies of Afghanistan, the enemies of Islam and humanity."

"This is the work of those who are against Islam, the Afghan nation and all humanity," the mayor told reporters standing on the rubble of destroyed homes, shops and a wedding hall in the heart of the city.

"Anyone committing such crimes during the holy month are enemies of Islam," the mayor added.

Afghanistan, like the rest of the Muslim world, is observing the month of Ramadan with fasting from dawn to dusk, when people generally go home to eat. The bombing took place as Afghans sat down to break their fast.

The Taliban, who were ousted from power in the 2001 US-led invasion, denied responsibility for the attack but have been blamed by NATO and Afghan officials. Taliban are known to deny attacks involving civilian casualties. - Sapa-AFP

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