Saturday 23 September 2017

Suicide bomb kills 13 US soldiers in Afghan capital

Amir Shah in Kabul

A TALIBAN suicide bomber rammed a van into an armoured NATO convoy, killing 13 American troops and four Afghans in the deadliest attack on coalition forces in Kabul since the war began.

A heavily armoured NATO shuttle bus was rammed by a pickup truck packed with an estimated 700kg of explosives as a military convoy drove along a busy road in the heavily guarded Afghan capital.

In Kabul, the devastating attack on the NATO convoy was not just lethal, but also powerfully symbolic -- indicating the rebels' ability to continue to launch operations in the Afghan capital.

The blast occurred in front of the American University in the Darulaman district that is home to several important government departments and military bases. At least three civilians and a police officer were also killed.

The bus, known as a Rhino because of its heavy armour, was blown on to its side, its back torn off, and gutted as a fireball ripped through it.

A taxi driver said he saw the bodies of six badly burned foreign soldiers in the wreckage. The street was littered with shrapnel and twisted metal after the explosion. Heavy black smoke poured from burning wreckage at the site along the four-lane highway frequently used by foreign military trainers in the southwestern section of the city.

Setback

The attack constitutes a major setback for the US-led coalition as it begins to draw down combat troops.

Underscoring the difficulties ahead, the brazen assault occurred on the same day that top NATO and Afghan officials were meeting elsewhere in Kabul to discuss the second phase of shifting security responsibilities to Afghan forces in 17 of the country's 34 provinces.

It also was a blow to efforts by the US and Afghan President Hamid Karzai to forge peace with the fundamentalist Taliban movement as NATO plans to withdraw all its combat troops from the country by the end of 2014.

A similar Taliban attack targeted a NATO convoy on the same road in May 2010, when a suicide bomber struck a convoy, killing 18 people. But Saturday's strike was the deadliest since the decade-long war began.

Irish Independent

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