KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- Three suicide attackers blew themselves up in the largest city in southern Afghanistan Wednesday, leaving 22 people dead in a dusty marketplace that was turned into a gruesome scene of blood and bodies, authorities said.
Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi claimed responsibility for the attack in Kandahar that injured an estimated 50 civilians.
The explosion occurred about five kilometers (three miles) from the main gate of the massive military installation run by the U.S.-led coalition and roughly 500 meters (yards) from an Afghan military base.
One suicide bomber detonated a three-wheeled motorbike filled with explosives first, said Rahmatullah Atrafi, deputy police chief in Kandahar province. Then, as people rushed to assist the casualties, two other suicide bombers on foot walked up to the site and blew themselves up, he said.
Eight private security guards were among the 22 killed along a main road on the east side of the city, he said.
Small shops and private security company offices line one side of the road. Large trucks that supply logistics to Kandahar Air Field regularly park along the other side.
The explosions left a bloody scene of body parts, shoes, soda cans, snacks and debris from three shops that were destroyed.
Mohammad Naeem, a 30-year-old shopkeeper, said he was selling soft drinks to a customer when the first blast occurred.
"I dropped to the ground," he said. "When I got up, I looked outside and I heard people shouting for help."
Naeem said he helped his customer, who was wounded, into his shop.
"He was bleeding. I put cloth on his wound to stop the bleeding," he said. "I was busy with that when the other blasts occurred."
Islam Zada, a truck driver, was on the other side of the road having tea near his parked truck when the attack began.
"I couldn't see anything except for fire and dust," Zada said of the scene. "I found a wounded truck driver on our side of the road and went to help him," Zada said. "We gave him some water and when we were talking to him the other blasts occurred."