2 U.S. service members die in suicide bombing
Taliban claims credit for attack on NATO convoy.
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.
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.