KHANDAHAR - A powerful bomb hit a mini-bus carrying Afghan labourers on their way to work at a US military base in southern Afghanistan on Thursday, killing about 10 people, police said.

The latest incident in a wave of the worst violence in Afghanistan since the Taleban were ousted in 2001 happened during the rush hour in the heart of the southern city of Kandahar.

"It was a big explosion. We don't know if the explosives were in the mini-bus or not," said a policeman at the scene, Raaz Mohammad.

"We have seen more than 10 dead people with legs and hands blown off being brought out of the bus," he said.

Kandahar's police chief, Azizullah Wardak, said the blast was caused by explosives apparently hidden in the mini-bus.

He said he knew of at least seven dead.

The bomb went off soon after the mini-bus made its regular stop to buy bread at a bakery, before heading to Kandahar airport where US and other international forces have a huge base, said baker Esmatullah.

Three shops were destroyed in the blast. Nervous shopkeepers cleared rubble from the street where a small pond of blood and pieces of flesh lay.

Azizullah said the blast was the work of "Afghanistan's enemies", a term Afghan officials use to refer to the Taleban and their al Qaeda allies.

More than 900 people have been killed in violence in Afghanistan this year.

The Afghan insurgents have been copying the tactics of insurgents in Iraq with a wave of suicide bombings. Iraqi insurgents have also launched countless attacks on people working for US and other foreign forces.

The Taleban, fighting to expel foreign forces and defeat the Western-backed government, were ousted in late 2001 after refusing to hand over Osama bin Laden.

- REUTERS