Powerful blast at gunpowder store in Afghanistan kills at least 6

A huge blast at a gunpowder store in central Kabul destroyed dozens of shops and houses early Wednesday, killing at least six people and wounding nine, officials said.

Deputy city police chief Zulmay Khan said gunpowder in shops selling ammunition for hunting rifles caused the explosion.

The blast gouged a huge crater out of the neighborhood, threw piles of burning wreckage into the street and shattered windows for hundreds of meters (yards) around.

Ali Shah Paktiawal, the criminal director of Kabul police, had said earlier it was a car bomb and that at least four or five people were killed. But after further investigation, Paktiawal said it "was not a terrorist act."

A statement from the Interior Ministry said six people were killed and nine wounded.

Police have not said what might have ignited the gunpowder.

At least three others were pulled from the rubble of collapsed mud-brick buildings and put into waiting ambulances. Police, soldiers and crying relatives used their hands and shovels to dig frantically through the debris for more feared trapped underneath.

Khali Abdul Wahid, a leader in the area, said there were 400 shops near the blast site, and at least 100 were destroyed or damaged.

A reporter on the scene said at least 25 shops were completely destroyed by the blast.

Most of the shops, selling ropes, construction material and gunpowder for hunting rifles were shut at the time of the blast around 6:30 a.m. (0200 GMT) in part of the city where many buildings are already ruined from years of conflict.

Khan said most of the casualties were caused by houses and shops collapsing in the explosion, the AP reports.

Mahmadullah, 22, was just opening his shop when the blast occurred. Rescuers pulled him out alive but unconscious from the rubble of the building.

His trembling father, Mohammad Ashim, had a cut on his nose and head. His shalwar kameez tunic drenched in blood and covered with dust, Ashim stood barefoot outside. He said his other son also was injured.

Nearby, Abdul Basir looked for his three brothers in the messy heap of mud-brick that used to be his shop.

"How am I going to tell my mother?" he asked, his arms reaching toward the sky.

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