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Oil tanker shots kill 7 and injure 14 in Afghan capital

Officials say a fire that hit dozens of fuel tankers in the far north of the Afghan capital, Kabul, killed seven people and injured 14

KABUL, Afghanistan – A fire that hit dozens of fuel tanks in the far north of the Afghan capital, Kabul, killed seven people and wounded 14 others, the Interior Ministry said on Sunday.

Investigators were searching the tanks that were in smoking ruins and a gas station caught in the flames that lit up the area late Saturday, ministry spokesman Tariq Arian said.

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There was no immediate indication whether it was an accident or sabotage. It came on the same day that the US and NATO officially began the final phase of a withdrawal from Afghanistan, ending an almost 20-year military battle.

All 2,500-3,500 American soldiers and nearly 7,000 NATO allied forces will be out of Afghanistan no later than September 11, the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks in the United States that brought them to the country for the first time.

Arian said the fire started when a spark ignited a fuel tank. The nearby tankers were quickly engulfed, sending giant flames and clouds of smoke into the night sky. The fire at the northern end of the city involved several houses and a nearby gas station. Several structures were destroyed and electricity in much of Kabul, which generally has only sporadic energy, has been turned off.

On Sunday, truck drivers blocked the road leading to the area, requiring the government to provide compensation.

The wounded were being treated mainly for burns at local hospitals.

The fire came shortly after residents of the Muslim-majority nation – marking the holy month of Ramadan, when the faithful fast from sunrise to sunset – ended their full day fast.

A driver, Haji Mir, said the explosion was deafening as trucks were lining up to enter the city. He estimated that up to 100 trucks may have burned.

“The first explosion sounded like a mine explosion,” he said. “There were flames coming out of a truck, and then a second truck exploded and a third.”

Dozens of tankers were advancing slowly to the capital at the time of the fire. They waited until after 9 pm. when fuel tanks and other large trucks can enter Kabul.

Obaidullah, a resident of the area who has a name, said the fireballs were huge. Her family and neighbors ran to their backyards.

“The fire lit up the sky,” he said. Drivers screamed for help as flames leapt from one vehicle to another. “Drivers shouted that their co-pilots were trapped and burning.”

Firefighters arrived at the scene, but their capacity is limited and it took hours to control the fire. On Sunday morning, the flames still flickered in the ruins.

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