NATO, Afghan soldiers killed in Taliban attack
At least five international troops and four Afghan soldiers died in a suicide attack claimed by the Taliban at an Afghan army headquarters on Saturday, in the most deadly attack on coalition soldiers since December 2010.
AFP - Five international troops and four Afghan soldiers died in a suicide attack claimed by the Taliban at the Afghan army's headquarters in the war-torn country's east, officials said.
The attack is the worst single incident since December against foreign forces in Afghanistan, and comes amid a wave of suicide attacks on security targets, three months before foreign forces are to start a limited pullback.
It was carried out by a suicide bomber wearing an Afghan army uniform at the base in the Gambiri desert area in Laghman province, near Jalalabad city, the de facto capital of Afghanistan's east.
"Five International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) service members died following an insurgent attack in eastern Afghanistan today," ISAF said in a statement.
ISAF spokesman Major Tim James confirmed that the deaths came in an attack on the Afghan army base in Laghman province, but could not comment on the nationalities of those killed.
Separately, Afghanistan's defence ministry said that four Afghan army personnel were killed and eight people were wounded, including four translators.
It added that that attack was carried out by a man wearing an Afghan army uniform.
"Four dead bodies and eight wounded were brought to our hospital," said provincial hospital head Baz Mohammad Shairzad.
A Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, claimed responsibility for the attack in a telephone call to AFP.
James said that there were over 100 ISAF troops at the base, primarily tasked with mentoring the Afghan army.
The blast came a day after the provincial police chief of Kandahar in southern Afghanistan, Khan Mohammad Mujahid, was killed in a suicide bombing claimed by the Taliban in which his two bodyguards also died.
There has been a recent spike in suicide bombings -- a key Taliban tactic -- in Afghanistan, with authorities reporting nine in the last few days.
About 130,000 international troops are stationed in Afghanistan, two-thirds of them from the United States, battling the Taliban and other insurgents.
Limited withdrawals from seven relatively peaceful areas of the country are due to start in July ahead of the planned end of foreign combat operations in 2014.
Afghan security forces are due to take increasing responsibility for their own country's security as foreign troops pull back.
They are frequently the target of attacks by the Taliban, who have been fighting an insurgency since 2001 when a US-led invasion ousted them from power.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned at a NATO foreign ministers' meeting in Berlin on Thursday that nations involved in Afghanistan should not rush to exit due to "political expediency and short-term thinking".
"We have to steel ourselves and our publics for the possibility that the Taliban will resort to the most destructive and sensational attacks we have seen," she said.