Suicide attack kills nine soldiers, wounds 28 at military training camp in Kabul | VailDaily.com

Suicide attack kills nine soldiers, wounds 28 at military training camp in Kabul

Daily Staff Report

Associated PressKABUL, Afghanistan – A uniformed man on a motorbike detonated a bomb Wednesday outside an Afghan army training center where soldiers were waiting to take buses home, killing nine people and wounding 28 in a rare suicide attack.The blast broke 10 days of relative calm after landmark parliamentary elections and underscored the terrorist threat still facing Afghanistan as it slowly moves toward democracy. It also added to fears that insurgents here are copying tactics used in Iraq.A purported Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility and threatened more suicide attacks on U.S. and Afghan forces. His account of the bombing differed from those of witnesses, however, and his claims could not immediately be verified.Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Mohammed Zaher Azimi said authorities had yet to identify the bomber but blamed “international terrorists.” He did not elaborate. President Hamid Karzai condemned the attack in “the strongest terms” as he ordered authorities to investigate.The attack targeted the U.S.-trained Afghan National Army, which currently numbers about 30,000 and is a key plank of international efforts to rebuild the country.Gen. Ghulam Saki, commander of the Kabul Military Training Center, said nine army personnel died, as well as the attacker. Three civilian bus workers were among 28 people treated in a military hospital.This year has seen a surge in violence in Afghanistan, mostly in the volatile south and east where Taliban-led insurgents are strongest. More than 1,300 people, many of them rebels, have died in the past seven months.Kabul – patrolled by thousands of NATO peacekeepers – is regarded as one of the country’s safest places, despite a flurry of kidnappings of foreigners over the past year. The last major explosion here was in August 2004, when a car bomb tore through the office of a U.S. contractor providing security for Karzai, killing 10 people. The Taliban claimed responsibility.Witnesses said Wednesday’s attacker wore a uniform and rode a motorbike into the parking lot of the eastern Kabul training center as officers and soldiers waited to take minibuses home around 4 p.m.NATO peacekeepers with tanks and armored personnel carriers blocked roads to the blast scene. But an Associated Press reporter who gained access saw three blackened, badly damaged minibuses, one lying on its side. Investigators worked under floodlights, while peacekeepers with flashlights searched nearby woods.In a call to AP nearly five hours after the attack, purported Taliban spokesman Mullah Latif Hakimi identified the bomber as Mullah Sardar Mohammad, a 22-year-old Afghan fighter from the hard-line militia.Hakimi’s account of the attack appeared at odds with witness accounts. He claimed the attacker struck at army headquarters as foreigner instructors were training Afghan cadets.He also said other Taliban fighters were ready to launch suicide attacks on U.S.-led coalition and Afghan government forces.Information from Hakimi in the past has sometimes been exaggerated or untrue. Afghan and U.S. military officials say he is believed to speak for factions of the rebel group, though his exact ties to the Taliban leadership cannot be verified.Suicide assaults are far less frequent in Afghanistan than by insurgents opposed to U.S.-led forces in Iraq, although senior Afghan officials have spoken in recent months of al-Qaida operatives entering the country to stage attacks.On June 1, a suicide blast in the southern city of Kandahar during the funeral of a moderate Muslim cleric critical of the former Taliban regime killed 20 people, including the Kabul police chief, and wounded 42.That fueled fears the Sept. 18 elections could have been threatened by violence, but there were no major attacks on polling day for Afghanistan’s latest step toward political stability after a quarter-century of war.Elsewhere in Afghanistan, authorities reported two attacks on development workers in which two Bangladeshis – including a U.N. employee – were wounded. One Afghan was killed and another wounded.Meanwhile, Afghan police and intelligence agents in Kabul have arrested a man suspected in the kidnapping of an Italian aid worker held hostage for three weeks in June before her release. The suspect, Temur Shah, was detained Tuesday. He had been arrested earlier but released.Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali said Shah is accused of kidnapping CARE International worker Clementina Cantoni and abducting and killing the son of an Afghan businessman, along with threatening a bank chairman in an extortion attempt a few days ago.Vail, Colorado