November 27th, 2007 11:24 EST
Negligence led to deaths in big Afghan bomb-inquiry
Official negligence contributed to the death toll in Afghanistan's biggest suicide bombing, which killed 72 people, most of them schoolboys, this month, the interior minister said on Tuesday.
A suicide bomber blew himself up on Nov. 6 as local schoolboys lined up to greet a group of opposition parliamentarians visiting a sugar factory in the town of Baghlan in the relatively peaceful north.
Fifty-two schoolboys, six parliamentary deputies and five teachers were among the 72 killed.
Opposition lawmakers staged a mass walk-out from parliament on Monday, accusing President Hamid Karzai's government of inaction against officials they accused of not doing enough to protect the visiting delegation and civilians in Baghlan.
"Enquiries indicate a range of negligence and carelessness occurred in various related governmental levels," Interior Minister Zarar Ahmad Moqbel told a news conference.
"Those involved in negligence or carelessness will be sacked, replaced or prosecuted based on the extent of their guilt," he said. "We are hopeful that we will learn the names of those involved in negligence from judicial authorities soon."
FORMER WARLORDS ANGRY
The parliamentary walk-out was led by members of the National United Front, made up of many former warlords who fought the Taliban before U.S.-led forces helped them overthrow the hardline Islamist movement in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
The front has grown increasingly vocal in its criticism of Karzai on a range of issues, from his failure to tackle the country's worsening security situation, to official corruption and the alleged involvement of some officials in the drugs trade.
A number of conspiracy theories have also emerged since the hardline Islamist Taliban, responsible for more than 140 suicide attacks in Afghanistan this year, denied they carried out the Baghlan bombing.
Moqbel did not comment on which group might have been behind the attack, but ruled out any attempt by members of the government to eliminate opposition parliamentarians.
He said the bomber's body had been brought to Kabul and was undergoing forensic examinations.
Some witnesses said police at the scene opened fire wildly after the attack, killing and wounding many who had survived the blast.
A number of the victims appeared to have suffered bullet wounds, but at least some of those may have been the result of the ball bearings packed in the bomber's suicide vest.
"The incident was a suicide attack," said Moqbel.
"After the blast the bodyguards and armed men there opened fire ... The investigation and documents in hand indicate that three people were wounded by firing."
There was no indication Mostafa Kazemi, the most senior opposition deputy killed in Baghlan, was among those shot dead. Moqbel said he had died from the suicide bomb.
He said some relatives had requested victims be disinterred for post-mortems to be carried out. Most of the dead were buried soon after the bombing according to Muslim custom, without proper examination. (Writing by Jon Hemming; Editing by Jerry Norton)