Afghanistan bomber kills 17
Deadliest day for U.S. in Kabul since war’s start
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.