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VOICE OF AMERICA
SLUG: 2-324365 Afghanistan Blast (L) DATE: NOTE NUMBER:

DATE=05/02/05

TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT

TITLE=AFGHANISTAN/BLAST (S-L)

NUMBER=2-324365

BYLINE=BENJAMIN SAND

DATELINE=ISLAMABAD

CONTENT=

HEADLINE: Illegal Arms Dump Explodes in Northern Afghanistan

INTRO: An illegal ammunition dump in northern Afghanistan has exploded, killing at least 28 people and injuring scores of others. As VOA's Benjamin Sand reports from Islamabad, officials say the arms belonged to an Afghan militia commander.

TEXT: The Afghan government says the blast leveled an entire neighborhood in the village of Bashgah, 120-kilometers north of Kabul.

Interior Ministry Spokesman Latfullah Mashal says the weapons belonged to a militia commander who just weeks ago had officially been disarmed.

/// MASHAL ACT ///

"But he still retained these shells and ammunition in an underground bunker close to his house."

/// END ACT ///

The dump contained mortar and artillery rounds and other ordnance.

Afghanistan is awash with old weapons after years of conflict. The government began a drive to disarm private armies in 2003, but much ordnance remains uncollected.

/// REST OPT FOR SHORT///

Mr. Mashal says an investigation into the exact cause of the deadly explosion is underway.

/// MASHAL ACT 2 ///

"So far we do not know if it was an accident or was it destructive action of the terrorist or what."

/// END ACT ///

Baghlan province, where the blast occurred, is not a stronghold for Taleban insurgents and Mr. Mashal says factional fighting between warlords is a possible cause.

Afghanistan has seen a number of explosions at arms depots in recent years, but this blast was the most deadly. (SIGNED)

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