2 U.S. ser­vice mem­bers die in sui­cide bomb­ing

Tal­iban claims credit for at­tack on NATO con­voy.

Austin American-Statesman - - MORE OF TODAY’S TOP NEWS - By Kathy Gan­non

A sui­cide bomb­ing at­tack on a NATO con­voy in south­ern Afghanistan on Wed­nes­day left two Amer­i­can ser­vice mem­bers dead, a Pen­tagon spokesman said.

Navy Capt. Jeff Davis con­firmed the ca­su­al­ties in the at­tack near Kandahar city. There was no in­for­ma­tion on the num­ber of troops wounded.

U.S. mil­i­tary of­fi­cials in Afghanistan re­fused to give any in­for­ma­tion about ca­su­al­ties, even af­ter the Pen­tagon re­leased the ca­su­alty fig­ures.

The Tal­iban quickly took re­spon­si­bil­ity for the at­tack, and a spokesman for the in­sur­gents said the bomb­ing al­legedly killed 15 sol­diers but the Tal­iban rou­tinely ex­ag­ger­ate their gains and ca­su­alty fig­ures.

In their claim of re­spon­si­bil­ity, the Tal­iban also said the at­tack de­stroyed two ar­mored tanks.

The in­sur­gents’ spokesman for south­ern Afghanistan, Qari Yusuf Ah­madi, said fighter Asadul­lah Kan­da­hari was the “hero” who car­ried out the at­tack with a small pickup truck packed with ex­plo­sives.

Kandahar province was the Tal­iban spir­i­tual heart­land and the head­quar­ters of their lead­er­ship dur­ing their five-year rule of Afghanistan, which ended with the U.S. in­va­sion in 2001.

The ser­vice mem­bers were part of an in­ter­na­tional force re­ferred to as the Train, Ad­vise and As­sist Com­mand south, a ref­er­ence to their lo­ca­tion in the coun­try. U.S. mil­i­tary spokesman in Afghanistan Lt. Damien Hor­vath said five other coun­tries be­sides the United States are sta­tioned in the south: Australia, Ger­many, Bul­garia, Poland and Ro­ma­nia.

Ghu­lam Ali, who runs a me­chan­ics shop near the at­tack site on the out­skirts of the city of Kandahar, said the in­ten­sity of the blast knocked him out.

When he came to, he said, he saw a mil­i­tary ve­hi­cle on fire on the road. He stepped out of his shop but a sud­den burst of gun­fire drove him back in­side, he said. Then, he­li­copters ar­rived and he saw sol­diers be­ing taken away from the scene but could not de­ter­mine the ex­tent of their in­juries.

The com­bined U.S. and NATO troop con­tin­gent cur­rently in Afghanistan is about 13,500. The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is de­cid­ing whether to send about 4,000 or more U.S. sol­diers to Afghanistan in an at­tempt to stem Tal­iban gains.

The at­tack in south­ern Kandahar came as thou­sands of demon­stra­tors in the western city of Herat trans­ported 31 bod­ies, the vic­tims of a hor­rific sui­cide at­tack on a Shi­ite mosque a day ear­lier, to the res­i­dence of the pro­vin­cial gov­er­nor.

Protesters were out­raged at the au­dac­ity of Tues­day evening’s at­tack, barely 150 feet from a po­lice sta­tion. The sui­cide bomber first sprayed gun­fire at pri­vate guards who were pro­tect­ing the mosque, then ran in­side, fir­ing un­til his ri­fle jammed, said wit­nesses. He then det­o­nated the ex­plo­sives strapped to his body.

The Is­lamic State af­fil­i­ate in Afghanistan took re­spon­si­bil­ity for the at­tack, say­ing it had de­ployed two sui­cide bombers.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

An Afghan po­lice of­fi­cer stands guard Wed­nes­day near the site of a sui­cide bomb at­tack on a NATO con­voy on the out­skirts of Kandahar, Afghanistan. Two U.S. ser­vice mem­bers who died in the at­tack were part of an in­ter­na­tional force op­er­at­ing in the south.

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