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Military officials are blaming a faulty fuel tank, not Taliban insurgents, for a series of fiery explosions early Sunday morning outside a major U.S. military base in southern Afghanistan.

“No evidence of any kind has been found that indicates the incident was the result of an attack or an improvised explosive device,” Maj. Michael Hicks, commander of the Explosive Ordnance Control Team in Afghanistan, said in a statement. “There are no components or items that we would associate with such things.”

Five tanker trucks were destroyed and at least three drivers injured in the pre-dawn hours Sunday when explosions ripped through a truck stop about a mile outside of Kandahar airfield. No U.S. troops were injured.

“We believe it was a mechanical failure on the part of the fuel truck that caused the explosion,” Hicks said. “Transporting fuel is a risky business; there are stringent procedures you have to follow when handling fuel.”

Afghan military authorities had immediately cast blame for the explosions on local insurgents.

“The Taliban perpetrated this terrorist activity,” the Associated Press quoted local Afghan commander Gen. Muslim Ahmed on Sunday morning as the wreckage smoldered.

One of the injured drivers, Sher Alam, told AP he was awakened by the initial blast and ran for his life.

“I was sleeping at the time and suddenly I heard an explosion. When I woke up there was a huge fire engulfing the fuel tanker near mine. We all ran away and there were more explosions,” said Alam, whose feet and hands were injured by flying debris.

Whatever the cause of the blasts, the top U.S. military leader in the region has warned against an expected surge in violence this spring and summer.

“Clearly the terrorists want to get back into the public view, they want to reassert themselves and I expect they will be looking here in the next six, eight months to stage some type of spectacular attack to garner publicity and score some type of a propaganda victory,” Lt. Gen. David Barno told reporters at press conference in Afghanistan on Saturday, according to a transcript.

“I think we all must remain realistic and clear-eyed with the understanding the enemy is still dangerous, he’s reduced in his capabilities but he remains a desperate foe who will try and inflict losses that will try and change the course that the Afghan people have chosen for themselves.”


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