A suicide car bomb exploded next to a British convoy in southern Afghanistan on Sunday, and troops speeding away from the scene fired at several civilian cars. Three Afghans were killed and 19 people were wounded, including three British soldiers.
The attack was one of at least five violent confrontations in southern Afghanistan in 24 hours. More than 12 people were killed and 11 wounded in the other fighting.
The suicide blast in Kandahar damaged an open-top NATO vehicle and scattered the pieces of the car bomb over a wide area in Kandahar city. Three NATO soldiers were wounded, said Squadron Leader Jason Chalk, an alliance spokesman in Kandahar.
The suicide bomber tried to ram his car into the convoy as the troops were driving through the city, Britain’s Ministry of Defense said. One of the wounded soldiers was in serious condition.
Two civilians were killed and 10 wounded in the blast, said Dr. Bashir Ahmed of the main Kandahar hospital. A Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousef Ahmedi, claimed responsibility for Sunday’s attack.
Civilians killed in aftermath
After the explosion, soldiers speeding from the scene fired at civilian vehicles, including a man on a motorcycle about a half-mile from the blast site.
Ahmed said six Afghans were wounded by the gunfire.
Interior Minister Zarar Ahmad Muqbal said in Kabul that one civilian was killed and one was injured by the gunfire.
Maj. Luke Knittig, the spokesman for NATO’s International Security Assistance Force, said that as the patrol was driving away from the blast site it came across a suspicious car which soldiers feared might be a second suicide bomber.
Chalk said the patrol fired warning shots to keep people away and that some civilians may have been injured as a result.
Isah Mohammad, one of the Afghans injured by gunfire, said from his hospital bed that he was driving through Kandahar with his cousin when the convoy passed them.
“The convoy was coming and there was some gunfire, but I thought it was a wedding ceremony,” said Mohammad, who is in his early 30s and was hit in the shoulder and the right leg. “When they got closer, they started shooting at us.”
Resentment of NATO troops builds
His uncle, Gahfoor Aqa, had harsh words for NATO troops, saying they “are always saying they’re coming to rebuild our country. But instead they are shooting our children,” he said.
U.K. Taskforce spokesman Lt. Col. Andy Price condemned the suicide attack.
“This was a typically indiscriminate attack from the Taliban, who didn’t care if they killed or injured innocent Afghans around our forces,” he said.
The blast was the fourth suicide attack in the Kandahar region in a week. Two Canadian soldiers were killed last Monday by a suicide car bomb just outside Kandahar.
NATO figures as of last week showed that 227 Afghans and 17 international soldiers have been killed in about 105 suicide bombings this year. The bombs typically target NATO and Afghan security forces but more often kill civilians.
Meanwhile, Knittig said NATO forces were doing a “recovery operation” at the site where a civilian helicopter crashed in southern Afghanistan on Saturday. He would not say how many people died in the crash.
Militants attacked a NATO convoy in southern Helmand province’s Nawzad district, said Ghulam Nabi Malakheil, the province’s police chief. NATO troops fired back and called in airstrikes that left five militants dead, he said. Two NATO soldiers were wounded in the exchange, Knittig said.
In Zabul province, suspected Taliban militants attacked a police checkpoint, sparking a gunbattle that left four insurgents dead and one police officer wounded, said Jailany Khan, Zabul’s highway police commander.
Militants also tried to block the main highway linking Kandahar and Helmand province, and a clash with police left three militants dead and eight wounded, said Ghulam Rasool, the district police chief. No police were injured.
NATO troops also battled militants near Musa Qala in Helmand province for four hours late Saturday. The fighting, including airstrikes, killed or wounded “a significant number of insurgents,” the alliance said.
Afghanistan’s south is the center of a revived Taliban insurgency that this year alone has left over 3,700 people dead.