IMAGE: Kabul suicide attack
Saurabh Das  /  AP
Investigators examine the scene of a suicide attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Friday.
updated 8/31/2007 7:28:21 AM ET 2007-08-31T11:28:21

A suicide car bomber targeting a patrol of German soldiers detonated the vehicle outside the gates of Kabul’s airport Friday, killing an Afghan soldier and wounding four Belgian troops, officials and witnesses said.

The latest violence came as 19 South Koreans freed by Taliban kidnappers prepared to fly home Friday, while their government denied allegations that it had paid a ransom to end the six-week hostage standoff.

The suicide bomber apparently missed his intended target, tearing instead into a group of Afghan soldiers waiting at a checkpoint outside the military wing of Kabul International airport, witnesses said. A soldier said the Afghan troops were headed to Italy for training.

The German Defense Ministry said no German troops were hurt.

Belgian Defense Minister Andre Flahaut said four Belgian soldiers were slightly wounded, with one suffering minor burns. Others suffered hearing damage. Some 300 Belgian soldiers, serving with NATO’s International Security Assistance Force, are in charge of security at the capital’s airport.

Mansur, a witness who only gave a single name, said the car “drove fast.”

It “blew up next to a crowd of people, including Afghan National Army soldiers,” he said. “A lot of people were left laying on the ground.”

More casualties?
Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi, a Defense Ministry spokesman, said at least one Afghan soldier died and two others were wounded. But other officials at the scene said one soldier was killed and at least six other people, including two civilians, were wounded.

An Afghan noncommissioned officer said the bomber hit members of the Afghan National Army on their way for training in Italy, he said. “All the shrapnel came toward us,” said the soldier, who declined to give his name.

Another soldier walked away from the scene holding a pair of bloodied boots and two green berets worn by Afghan National Army members.

Taliban militants are leading an increasingly bloody campaign against Afghan and Western troops in the country. Almost 4,000 people — most of them insurgents — have been killed this year alone, according to an Associated Press count.

Insurgents to continue abductions
Abductions also have become a tactic of the insurgents, and a Taliban spokesman said that wouldn’t change with the recent release of the South Korean hostages.

“We will do the same thing with the other allies in Afghanistan, because we found this way to be successful,” Qari Yousef Ahmadi told The Associated Press via cell phone from an undisclosed location.

Ahmadi’s vow reinforced fears that South Korea’s decision to negotiate directly with the militants would embolden them amid the surging violence.

The 19 hostages, all church volunteers seized as they traveled by bus in southern Afghanistan on July 19, were freed in handovers on Wednesday and Thursday under a deal struck between the Taliban and South Korea.

South Korean presidential spokesman Cheon Ho-seon said in Seoul the former hostages would be leaving Afghanistan later Friday on a flight to Dubai, from where they would travel onward to South Korea.

Originally 23 South Koreans were seized, but the militants killed two men soon after taking them, and released two women earlier this month in what they termed a “goodwill” gesture.

Under the terms of Tuesday’s agreement, Seoul repeated a pledge it had made long before the kidnappings to withdraw its 200 troops in Afghanistan before year’s end and vowed to prevent missionaries from traveling to the country. The Taliban apparently backed down from an earlier demand for a prisoner exchange.

Was a ransom paid?
A senior Afghan official close to the negotiations alleged Friday the South Koreans also paid a ransom.

“Definitely there was money, but I don’t know how much. I do not want to lie,” the official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, because of the sensitivity of the topic.

Cheon, however, dismissed the claim, which other Afghan officials also have aired in recent days. “There is no additional agreement other than what has been made public,” he said.

The Taliban has repeatedly denied receiving any money.

Rumors of multimillion dollar ransom payments have swirled around other deals to release foreign hostages held by criminal gangs or the Taliban in Afghanistan, but they are difficult to prove, not least because neither side often has any interest in acknowledging them.

Foreign governments would be strongly criticized because ransom payments are thought to encourage kidnappings, whereas the Taliban’s image as a political and religious movement would be sullied if its motives were exposed as criminal.

The Afghan government was not party to the negotiations, which took place in the central Afghan city of Ghazni and were facilitated by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments