A Taliban suicide bomber killed at least 12 American troops and five others in Kabul Saturday as he rammed a vehicle laden with hundreds of kilos of explosives into a bus carrying foreign forces, according to reports.
At least 12 of the 17 killed in the attack on a military convoy were American troops, The New York Times quoted unnamed U.S. military officials as saying. However, the media in neighboring Pakistan said 13 American soldiers were killed.
The figures had not been credibly verified until Sunday morning.
“We can confirm that 13 International Security Assistance Force members have died,” Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper quoted an ISAF spokesman as saying. The daily also claimed that a Pentagon official had confirmed that 13 American soldiers were killed. Three civilians and a police officer were also killed, it added.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid sent a text message to news agencies, claiming responsibility for the attack. “A suicide car bomb attack was carried out on a bus of foreign forces in the Darul Aman area of Kabul,” he said. The Toyota vehicle used in the attack was packed with 700 kg of explosives.
The blast – the deadliest single attack on American troops in the capital since the war began 10 years ago – came 10 days after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s unannounced visit to Afghanistan.
Taliban have been trying to launch attacks particularly in Kabul after the NATO forces’ handing over of the capital’s internal security to Afghan security forces four months ago. The transfer of the responsibility indicates America’s growing confidence in President Hamid Karzai’s government.
President Karzai condemned the attack, saying it showed “the very evil and heinous nature of the enemy.”
“It’s a shock. It makes you mad. It makes me angry,” U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker said. “We are not going to let these guys win.”
The blast in Kabul was one of the three attacks reported in Afghanistan Saturday. An Afghan soldier shot to death three trainers believed to be from the Australian army in southern Uruzgan province. And a Taliban woman suicide bomber dressed in a burqa wounded two guards as she blew herself up outside an office of Afghanistan’s intelligence agency in eastern Asadabad city in Kunar province.
“I am both saddened and outraged by the attacks that took place today against Coalition forces and the people of Afghanistan,” ISAF commander Gen. John R. Allen said in a statement. “The enemies of peace are not martyrs, but murderers.”
The Taliban have attempted several, and successfully launched some, high-profile attacks across the country in recent months amid increasing deployment of American troops in their stronghold in southern parts of the country.