A suicide car bomber attacked a convoy of U.S. contract workers and military personnel in Afghanistan’s capital city of Kabul on Saturday, killing at least four civilians, officials said. A soldier opened fire on the crowd after the attack, killing one civilian.
The suicide attack in western Kabul also wounded four civilians and a foreigner, said Gen. Ali Shah Paktiawal. He said an international military vehicle and seven civilian vehicles were damaged in the attack. The bomber also died.
Zabiullah Mujahid, who claims to speak for the Taliban, claimed the group’s responsibility for the blast.
Witnesses gave a higher casualty count from the suicide attack than police, saying seven or eight people had died.
Maj. Sheldon Smith, a U.S. spokesman for troops training Afghan police and army soldiers, said U.S. contract workers and U.S. military personnel were in the convoy. He had no further details. A spokesman at the U.S. base at Bagram said workers with DynCorp, who are helping train Afghan police, were attacked.
A soldier on a Humvee “mistakenly” opened fire on the crowd after the suicide attack, killing one civilian and wounding three, said Zalmai Khan, deputy Kabul police chief. He said Afghans were angered over the shooting and wanted to demonstrate, but that police calmed the situation down.
But a crowd of 50 to 100 people still gathered, with some chanting “Death to America” and jabbing their arms at police.
One man in the crowd, Atta Mohammad, said the civilian killed by the U.S. soldier was a driver who had stepped out of his car to buy credit for his cell phone. “Nobody among us was doing anything wrong,” Mohammad said.
“They are against us, they are against Afghans,” said another, Abdul Rahim.
Smith said the coalition “never intentionally endangers the lives of innocent Afghan civilians” but said the Taliban routinely and intentionally uses explosive devices in heavily populated areas.
Wave of bloodshed
The blast came amid a wave of violence lashing Afghanistan, particularly the volatile south, including a suicide blast on Friday that targeted a NATO convoy at Tirin Kot in Uruzgan province, killing 10 people including five children and a Dutch soldier.
Kabul has been spared the worst of this year’s bloodshed which has claimed 2,300 lives so far, mostly insurgents, according to an AP count based on figures from U.S., NATO, U.N. and Afghan officials.
Saturday’s blast destroyed the attacker’s car, wrecked other civilian vehicles including a taxi and shattered windows of roadside homes and shops.
“We were busy with our work making window frames. I heard a very strong sound, and when I turned around I saw a big fire in the street,” said Mohammed Noor, 22, who owns a nearby carpentry shop. He said the blast fired bits of metal shorn from the attacker’s car into his shop front.
Noor said he helped four seriously wounded people into cars to ferry them to hospital. He said at least seven people were killed and 10 were wounded — a higher casualty toll than police offered.
The bomb apparently targeted a three-vehicle convoy of SUVs, damaging one although it was able to continue driving a quarter-mile down the road before coming to a halt with a punctured tire. U.S. armored jeeps arrived at the scene afterward suggesting the three SUVs were carrying American personnel.
3 Afghan soldiers killed by roadside bomb
Meanwhile, the Afghan Ministry of Defense said three soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb in Helmand province on Friday. It also said three “terrorists” — an Arab, a Chechen and a Pakistani — were killed during a U.S.-Afghan raid in Paktika province on Friday.
Meanwhile, a remote-controlled bomb exploded near a police vehicle on patrol in Nad Ali district of southern Helmand province on Saturday, wounding five police, said Bahram Aka, who was among those hurt. He spoke from his hospital bed in the provincial capital Lashkar Gah.
This spring supporters of the Taliban regime ousted by U.S.-led forces in late 2001 have increased bombings and suicide attacks, but NATO and US forces claim to have the rebels on the back foot with a wave of offensive operations in the south and east.
Taliban spokesmen have warned Afghan civilians to stay away from military convoys, saying militants do not intend to kill them, but suicide bombings commonly kill or wound far more civilians than military targets — a fact NATO repeatedly points out.