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Pentagon: Insurgent group behind Afghan bombing

The Pentagon says the Haqqani insurgent network was behind the powerful truck bomb that wounded 77 U.S. soldiers and killed five Afghans this past weekend.
/ Source: NBC News and news services

Pentagon officials are confident that the Haqqani insurgent network is behind the weekend attack on a combat outpost in Wardark province in Afghanistan that left five Afghans dead, including four civilians, and 77 American troops wounded.

Pentagon spokesman Capt. John Kirby said that the U.S. has "strong confidence" that members of the Haqqani terror network were involved, adding that there is also a "very strong likelihood" that the operation was supported by top Haqqani leadership.

Kirby would not get into specifics about why the U.S. believes Haqqani is behind the attack on Combat Outpost Sayed Abad, but did say that the culprits had "good resourcing, good planning." He said it involved a large truck and a large amount of explosives, adding that it was not just a single suicide bomber.

"This was not some guy with a suicide vest; this was a large, large vehicle with a large amount of explosive material," said Kirby. "You don't conduct that kind of attack without good resourcing, good planning and a fair level of coordination."

The massive bomb loaded on a truck filled with firewood exploded Saturday night just outside the gates of Combat Outpost Sayed Abad.

Officials said four of those killed were civilians, including a 3-year-old girl.

Another 17 people — 14 civilians and three policemen — were wounded. The provincial governor said the blast was so powerful it damaged about 100 shops in the Sayed Abad bazaar, located near the military base.

None of the 77 hurt Americans appeared to have suffered life-threatening injuries, NBC News reported.

"The majority of injured ISAF personnel will likely return to duties shortly," an ISAF statement added.

The Haqqani network is a Pakistan-based militant group allied with the Taliban that was started by Jalaluddin Haqqani, who rose to prominence in the 1980s receiving weapons and funds from the CIA and Saudi Arabia to fight Soviet forces in Afghanistan.

Although considered to be a part of the larger Taliban umbrella organization headed by Mullah Omar and his Quetta Shura Taliban, the Haqqanis maintain their own command and control and lines of operation.

They are believed to have introduced suicide bombing into Afghanistan and to have been behind several high-profile attacks, including an attempted assassination of President Hamid Karzai and a raid on Kabul's top hotel.

The Taliban had claimed responsibility for the attack.

On Sunday, the Taliban issued a statement vowing to fight until all foreign troops leave. The radical Islamic movement, which gave shelter to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida when it ruled Afghanistan, also stressed that it had no role in the Sept. 11 attacks, and it accused the U.S. of using them as a pretext to invade the country.

"The Afghans have an endless stamina for a long war," the statement said. "Through a countrywide uprising, the Afghans will send the Americans to the dustbin of history like they sent other empires of the past."

The attack occurred just over 40 miles, or about an hour's drive, from Kabul in an increasingly lawless district in a key province that controls a strategic approach to the capital.