Gunmen Carry Out Deadly Attack on 3 Vehicles on Afghan Highway


Security officers searched cars and passengers at  a checkpoint in Ghazni, Afghanistan, on Tuesday after gunmen opened fire on a bus and two other vehicles.CreditRahmatullah Alizadah/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

KABUL, Afghanistan — As many as 13 people were killed on one of Afghanistan’s most important roads early Tuesday morning when gunmen opened fire on a bus and two other vehicles, the authorities here said.

The episode is the latest in a series of attacks on the highway connecting Kabul with the southern city of Kandahar, and a grim reminder of the dangers of road travel across Afghanistan.

The attack, around 1 a.m. on Tuesday, occurred southwest of Kabul, in Wardak Province, where the Taliban have a strong presence. Gunmen opened fire on a bus, as well as on two trucks, killing 12 men and a woman, said Attaullah Khogyani, a spokesman for the provincial governor. A Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said that the attackers were not connected to the Taliban.

Last month, about 30 bus passengers, most or all of them members of the Hazara ethnic minority, were abducted along the same highway. Their fate remains unknown, as does the precise identity of their kidnappers, despite attempts by the Afghan military to find them.

Afghans traveling between the country’s south and the capital have long had to contend with Taliban checkpoints and banditry. But last month’s kidnapping has rattled travelers, with one bus company reporting that it has only about half the number of passengers between Kabul and Kandahar than in past years, according to a local news report.

Just 12 hours before the attack on Tuesday, on the same highway, in Ghazni Province about 90 miles to the south, a driver and three passengers had also been shot to death, the deputy governor of Ghazni, Mohammad Ali Ahmadi, said in a telephone interview.

Mr. Ahmadi said that one of the passengers was the son of a government official on Afghanistan’s peace council and appeared to have been targeted. Gunmen on motorcycles had chased the car before shooting everyone inside, he said.

In a separate attack in Ghazni on Monday, six children were killed when an explosion ripped through a playground in the provincial capital, Mr. Ahmadi said. At least nine other children were wounded, he said, adding that the blast came from a remote-controlled bomb that had been affixed to a bicycle.