U.S. commander offers security assurances after Kabul suicide bombing

 

McClatchy Foreign Staff

Two U.S. soldiers and four American civilian security contractors died Thursday when a suicide bomber in a Toyota Corolla rammed into a military convoy in Afghanistan’s capital, security officials said.

The deadliest attack in Kabul since March, it also killed six Afghan civilians, including two children. At least 30 people were wounded.

The attack occurred at around 8 a.m. local time, security officials said. It targeted an American military convoy as it drove through the eastern part of the capital. An Afghan army base is nearby, but it wasn’t thought to have been a target.

The street was crowded with children on their way to school.

The U.S.-led coalition condemned the attack, noting that it took place “in a residential area of the most populated city in Afghanistan.”

The statement, attributed to Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, the American who commands the international coalition here, also attempted to counter arguments that the bombing underscored insurgents’ ability to carry out violence in the heart of the capital.

“While today’s attack shows the insurgents remain dangerous, they are not a threat to the Afghan government and its forces,” the statement said. “In the end, today’s tragedy shows that the insurgents can offer no positive vision for the future.”

A spokesman for a militant group led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, an insurgent commander who once served as Afghanistan’s prime minister, claimed responsibility. The spokesman, Haroon Zarghoon, said the attack had been carried out by a militant from Logar province. Hekmatyar’s group, Hezb-i-Islami, is a rival of the Taliban movement.

The Afghan government’s ability to fend off attacks has become an especially sensitive issue as U.S.-led international forces end their combat role. All American combat troops are to leave Afghanistan next year, and it’s yet to be determined how many, if any, U.S. troops will remain afterward to help train the Afghan military.

Moments after the blast, Afghan security forces sealed off the scene, worried that another suicide bomber might be in the area to target rescue workers and others flocking to the scene. Eventually, however, the area was opened to journalists.

According to witnesses interviewed at the scene, the Toyota headed straight toward the U.S. military vehicles, which had slowed apparently for a speed bump. The blast left a large crater in the road and damaged nearby houses.

Afghan Interior Minister Bismillah Mohammadi confirmed that six Afghans had died in the attack. Most of the wounded were schoolchildren, he said.

Natiq is a McClatchy special correspondent.

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