KABUL: A Taliban car bomber struck a Nato military convoy in the Afghan capital on Saturday, killing 17 people, including 13 US troops, the deadliest single ground attack in 10 years of war in Afghanistan.
The attacker blew up his Toyota sedan next to a US-run bus travelling through the southwest of Kabul at 11:20am (06:50 GMT), raising tensions in the city already troubled by a spate of recent high-profile insurgent attacks. The bombing was one of three deadly incidents for foreign forces across the country.
The interior ministry said three bystanders and a policeman were killed, while Nato’s alliance force said at least 13 Western military forces died and US officials confirmed they were all Americans.
“Initial reports indicate that 13 International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) service members died following an improvised explosive device attack in Kabul earlier today (Saturday),” the force said in a statement. At least one other soldier was wounded in the massive explosion, US officials told AFP, warning that the death toll could rise.
Thick black smoke could be seen rising from an fire still raging at the scene, cordoned off by Afghan and Isaf soldiers, while fire hoses were putting out another blaze nearby, footage on private television channel Tolo showed.
Nato’s coalition forces were seen carrying the charred bodies of some of those killed away on stretchers from the wreckage of the bombed bus.
“It was a huge explosion, I saw at least 10 bodies of foreign forces taken out of their capsized bus and evacuated by two helicopters,” one witness told AFP at the scene.
Half a kilometre from the explosion, shattered windows and scattered pieces of twisted metal showed the scale of the massive blast.
The attack was the deadliest for the coalition since the death of 30 US troops, including 25 US Special Operations Forces, whose helicopter was shot down in mid-August south of Kabul in Wardak province. Excluding helicopter crashes, it was the deadliest single incident for foreign troops since the war began in 2001.
In the volatile southern province of Uruzgan also Saturday, three Australian army trainers were killed when an Afghan soldier turned his gun on them, Nato and Afghan army officials said.
The alliance force said two service members were killed and one other later died of his injuries after “an individual wearing an Afghan National Army uniform apparently turned his weapon on Afghan and coalition forces.”It said the shooter was also killed in the incident but gave no further details.
General Abdul Hameed, commander of 205 Atal corps in the south said an Afghan soldier with three years’ experience had carried out the shooting in Uruzgan. He said six other Australian troops and one Afghan officer had been wounded.
Separately, in the eastern city of Asadabad in Kunar province, a female suicide bomber blew herself up outside a local branch of Afghanistan’s spy agency, wounding two guards, a spokesman for the Kunar provincial governor said. The insurgent group claimed responsibility for the attacks in Kabul and Kunar.
“A suicide car bomb attack was carried out on a bus of foreign forces in the Dar-ul-Aman area of Kabul,” said Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid in a text message sent to AFP. — AFP/Reuters
APP adds from Perth: Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani strongly condemned the suicide car bomb attack on the convoy of Isaf in Kabul. He also condemned the killing of three Australian troops in Uruzgan.
Addressing the Pakistani community here on the sidelines of Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) 2011, Prime Minister Gilani said Pakistan condemns terrorism and extremism in all its forms and manifestations.