US troops killed in Afghanistan car bomb attack
Civilians also among casualties after vehicle loaded with explosives rams bus in Kabul
US forces in Afghanistan suffered their deadliest insurgent attack in months yesterday after a car bomb filled with explosives rammed into the side of an armoured bus shuttling troops between Nato bases in Kabul.
The International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) said that 13 of its troops were killed and one seriously wounded.
Afghan and western officials privately confirmed that all of the dead were from the US, making it the heaviest loss of US life since a Chinook helicopter was shot down by the Taliban last August, killing 30 Americans and eight Afghans.
In addition, four Afghan civilians were killed in yesterday's attack, which the Taliban claimed responsibility for in a text message to the Observer.
The Taliban said it had filled a vehicle with around 700kg of explosives, which it detonated at about midday on a thoroughfare overlooked by the hulks of old royal palaces wrecked during the dark days of Afghanistan's civil war in the 1990s.
One eyewitness said a red Toyota Corolla had been seen driving at high speed in an apparent attempt to catch up with the heavily fortified bus.
The explosion ripped the heavily armoured Rhino bus apart, throwing it several metres, over the central reservation of the major road. Many of the windows in a building half a kilometre away used by Afghan MPs were smashed.
"It was a huge blast," said Mohammad Wali, a student who had crossed the road just before the Isaf convoy. "It threw the bus about 10 metres and sent shrapnel all across the area."
The vehicle had just begun a journey across the city from Camp Julien, home of a counter-insurgency school that teaches Afghan troops how to fight guerrilla warfare, to Camp Phoenix, a base housing US trainers who work with the Afghan army and police.
Kabul's deputy police chief said eight civilians were wounded in addition to the four killed, while one of his own policemen was also killed. A policeman at the scene said he saw three dead children with severely burned bodies.
Also yesterday, three Australian troops were killed in the southern province of Uruzgan when an Afghan soldier opened fire. Two died immediately, and a third later of his wounds.