Afghanista­n bomber kills 17

Dead­li­est day for U.S. in Kabul since war’s start

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - NEWS - By Hash­mat Bak­tash and Mark Mag­nier

KABUL, Afghanista­n — As many as 13 Amer­i­cans were killed Satur­day when a sui­cide bomber struck their ar­mored mil­i­tary bus in Kabul, in the sin­gle dead­li­est at­tack on U.S. cit­i­zens in the Afghan cap­i­tal since the war be­gan a decade ago.

A U.S. of­fi­cial said the pre­lim­i­nary death toll was be­lieved to be five ser­vice mem­bers and eight civil­ian con­trac­tors. But, the of­fi­cial said, a Cana­dian and at least one Bri­tish national could also be among the dead. The full ex­tent of the ca­su­al­ties was un­clear, he said, be­cause the mas­sive ex­plo­sion made iden­ti­fy­ing the dead dif­fi­cult.

The Afghan In­te­rior Min­istry said at least three Afghan civil­ians and one po­lice of­fi­cer were killed in the blast.

The bomb­ing rep­re­sents a pro­pa­ganda coup for the Tal­iban, which claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity in text mes­sages to news or­ga­ni­za­tions, say­ing they had packed a four-wheel-drive ve­hi­cle with at least 700 pounds of ex­plo­sives.

It was the largest sin­gle-day U.S. loss in Afghanista­n since a helicopter was shot down in War­dak prov­ince in Au­gust, killing 30 U.S. troops, in­clud­ing 17 Navy SEALS, along with eight Afghan troops.

Deadly at­tacks are rel­a­tively rare in Kabul, which has bet­ter se­cu­rity than the south­ern and east­ern parts of Afghanista­n. In re­cent months, how­ever, with the U.s.-led coali­tion an­nounc­ing plans to turn se­cu­rity over to Afghan forces by 2014, the Tal­iban have stepped up as­saults in a bid to bol­ster its po­lit­i­cal grip af­ter the pull­out.

Satur­day’s car­nage came a month and a half af­ter in­sur­gents launched a brazen 20-hour as­sault on the U.S. Em­bassy in Kabul, killing more than a dozen peo­ple. That at­tack was widely viewed as an at­tempt by the Tal­iban to send a mes­sage that no place in the coun­try was out of their reach.

Ac­cord­ing to the U.N., vi­o­lence across Afghanista­n is at its worst since the war started in 2001, de­spite 130,000 for­eign troops.

The NATO coali­tion says the num­ber of in­sur­gent at­tacks is de­clin­ing, but its data doesn’t in­clude lethal at­tacks against civil­ians or those mounted against Afghan se­cu­rity forces op­er­at­ing with­out in­ter­na­tional help.

The Kabul car bomb­ing took place Satur­day near the Amer­i­can Univer­sity on Daru­la­man Road, among the cap­i­tal’s busiest, which runs past par­lia­ment.

A NATO spokesman said the troops and con­trac­tors were trav­el­ing in a type of mil­i­tary bus known as a Rhino, named for its heavy ar­mor. The iden­ti­ties of those killed in the at­tack were not dis­closed pend­ing no­ti­fi­ca­tion of kin.

Daru­la­man Road is part of a route of­ten taken by train­ers be­tween Kabul’s mil­i­tary train­ing cen­ter and heav­ily for­ti­fied NATO bases in down­town Kabul.

In an­other deadly in­ci­dent, the coali­tion re­ported an at­tacker wear­ing an Afghan mil­i­tary uni­form opened fire on NATO troops in south­ern Afghanista­n, killing at least two, be­fore oth­ers killed him.

Other re­ports sug­gested that a third NATO sol­dier, an Aus­tralian, died a short while later in the in­ci­dent in south­ern Uruz­gan prov­ince. An Afghan in­ter­preter was also re­port­edly killed.

In a third in­ci­dent in east­ern Afghanista­n, guards fired on a fe­male sui­cide bomber wear­ing a burqa as she tried to en­ter a govern­ment build­ing, prompt­ing her to det­o­nate her ex­plo­sives. She was the only fa­tal­ity.

The coali­tion also said Satur­day that its troops and Afghan se­cu­rity forces had cap­tured two lead­ers of the mil­i­tant Haqqani net­work in a joint op­er­a­tion Fri­day in Pak­tika prov­ince along the Pak­istani-afghan bor­der.

OMAR SOB­HANI/REUTERS PHOTO

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