Alleged bomber stoned to death after Afghan bus blast

GHAZNI, AFGHANISTAN (AFP) - Angry villagers in Afghanistan have stoned a man to death and riddled his body with bullets, believing he set off a bomb on a bus that killed 18 civilians, officials said on Monday.

The roadside blast ripped through a minibus carrying wedding guests in the central province of Ghazni on Sunday, killing 18 people, the majority of them women. Villagers hunted down a local man who was found hiding in a chicken coop next to his home, with the bomb's remote control apparently found nearby, Ghazni deputy provincial governor Mohammad Ali Ahmadi told AFP.

A crowd of more than 100 people dragged the man out, beat him with sticks and shovels and then stoned him with rocks until he was dead. "They (then) shot about 200 bullets at his body," Mr Ahmadi added. Mr Asadullah Insafi, the Ghazni province deputy police chief, gave a similar account of the incident.

Locals said the man, whom they accused of being a Taleban militant, took responsibility for the bombing and tipped them off about a second device that he had planted nearby. The claims could not be verified.

Roadside bombs, also known as improvised explosive devices or IEDs, are planted by Taleban militants to target Afghan security forces and US-led Nato troops, but they often miss their intended targets and kill civilians.

The Taleban, who did not claim Sunday's attack, normally deny responsibility for bombings that cause civilian casualties.

More than 1,000 civilians were killed and around twice as many others were wounded in the first half of the year, according to a UN report, a 23 per cent increase from the same period last year.