Attack targets Nato, kills 17 Afghans

2012-06-20 18:53

Gardez - A suicide bomber on a motorbike struck a joint Afghan-Nato patrol in the town of Khost on Wednesday, killing 17 Afghans and causing coalition casualties, officials said.

The blast in the eastern town close to the border with Pakistan, where Taliban and other Islamist insurgents fighting US-led troops have strongholds, also wounded 37 people, hospital officials said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility but the government blamed "enemies of Afghanistan", a phrase commonly used by officials to refer to the Taliban.
The Taliban, leading a 10-year insurgency against President Hamid Karzai's western-backed government, have begun the annual fighting season with a series of attacks which saw US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta admit that violence was rising.

Interior ministry spokesperson Sediq Sediqqi said Wednesday's blast targeted a combined Afghan and coalition patrol passing through Khost, one of the most troubled parts of Afghanistan.

Second attack

It is the second major attack on Nato this month in the town, after a suicide truck bomber targeted a US-run base on June 1 in an incident that killed up to 15 people.
US media reported that more than 100 American troops were treated for injuries after that blast.

Amir Padsha, the director of Khost city hospital, said the bodies of three police officers and eight civilians, along with 17 wounded were brought in.

Babri Gul, the head of the Babri Gul private hospital in Khost, said he had received six bodies, including four members of the same family, and 20 wounded.
Martyn Crighton, a spokesperson for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) confirmed the attack targeted coalition and Afghan forces.

He said it "caused some ISAF casualties", but was unable to say whether the troops were dead or wounded, or provide a number.


Khost shares a porous border with Pakistan's tribal belt, which lies outside government control, and where US officials say the Taliban and al-Qaeda have carved out bases for operations in Afghanistan.

The Haqqani network, a militant group close to al-Qaeda and blamed for some of the most daring insurgent attacks in Afghanistan, is particularly active in the province.

In southern Afghanistan, a roadside bomb attack killed at least six civilians, including women and children travelling on a tractor in Puli Alam, the capital of Logar province, deputy provincial police chief Rahis Khan Sadiq said.

"Four children and two women were killed and four others were wounded," he said.

On Tuesday, Taliban suicide attackers struck two Afghan-Nato facilities in the southern province of Kandahar - the birthplace of the extremist movement and the heartland of its insurgency.

The Taliban have waged a bloody fight against Karzai's administration since they were ousted from power in a US-led invasion in 2001.

Nato is due to hand over security duties to Afghans and the vast majority of its 130 000 personnel are to leave the country by the end of 2014, but there are fears over local forces' ability to maintain peace.

For the past five years the number of civilians killed in the war has risen steadily, reaching a record 3 021 in 2011 - the vast majority caused by insurgents, according to UN figures.

The US-led Nato force is also responsible for hundreds of civilian casualties every year, mostly in air strikes aimed at insurgents in Afghan villages.