BAGHLANI-JADID, Afghanistan - Families of young people killed in Afghanistan's deadliest suicide bombing buried their loved ones yesterday, while witnesses said some of the victims may have been killed or wounded by security guards who opened fire after the blast.
The death toll from Tuesday's bombing rose to at least 68, most of them children or teenagers. The blast occurred as the students greeted members of parliament who were visiting a sugar factory in the country's normally peaceful north. Six lawmakers were among the dead.
President Hamid Karzai, who declared three days of mourning, and dozens of other Afghan leaders watched honor guards carry the lawmakers' coffins down a red carpet at Kabul's main airport after they were flown by helicopter from the blast site some 95 miles north of the capital.
Two Afghans were arrested in connection with the attack, for which no group has claimed responsibility. Provincial police chief General Abdul Rahman Sayed Khail said the two had ordered women to leave the scene of the attack before the bombing, raising suspicions.
A deputy education minister, Abdul Ghafor Ghazniwal, said students he had visited in Kabul hospitals told him that a conservative cleric had told female students to go home because they should not be out in public.
Hundreds of mourners gathered at a mosque near the blast site in the town of Baghlani-jadid before moving to a simple hilltop graveyard to bury the dead. A half-dozen bodies were lined up side by side, covered with colorful carpets, as men in turbans knelt beside them in tears. One family arrived after another all morning long to bury the dead.
"My son was supposed to finish school this year, but yesterday I had to peel off his blood-soaked clothes, and today I buried him," said an elderly man who broke down in tears at one gravesite. He did not give his name.
The town's schools were closed yesterday, and reporters walking by simple mud-brick homes heard women inside screaming and crying.
Dr. Khalil Narmgui, of the Baghlani-jadid hospital, said most of those killed were teenagers or children, though he did not have an exact figure. The Ministry of Education confirmed that at least 18 students and five teachers had been killed.
Narmgui, who was at the site of the attack, said he heard gunfire from security personnel for a short time after the explosion.
"I ran into a compound, and when the gunfire stopped, I came out and saw that there were dead bodies everywhere," he said.
Five people had been treated for bullet wounds in his hospital, he said. Baghlan's governor, Halam Isakzai, said it was possible some victims had been killed by the gunfire.
Also yesterday, in Washington, President Bush said he has no problem with some NATO allies refusing to contribute forces to fight alongside the United States and others in Afghanistan's dangerous south.
Bush's statement contradicted repeated and high-profile criticism by officials within his own administration and other countries.
Germany is among the NATO countries, also including France, Italy, and Spain, that have restricted their troops to relatively peaceful areas in Afghanistan's north.