4 killed, 34 hurt in Afghan attack on NATO convoy
KABUL A SUICIDE car bomber attacked a NATO convoy in the southern Afghan city of Lashkar Gah on Thursday, killing at least four civilians and wounding 34 others including three foreigners, an official said.
The bomber hit a provincial reconstruction team (PRT) convoy near the education department in what is the provincial capital of Helmand, a focus of attacks by Taliban insurgents.
“A suicide attacker detonated his Toyota Sedan vehicle loaded with explosives on an armoured vehicle,” Daoud Ahmadi, the spokesman for the Helmand governor said.
“As a result, four people are killed and 34 others wounded.” A child was among the dead and the wounded included several women and children, he said, while 17 private vehicles were destroyed by the force of the blast.
Three Westerners, two men and a woman who were inside an armoured vehicle with the PRT, were lightly wounded, he said. Their nationality has not been announced.
British and Danish troops with NATO’s 130,000 strong International Security Assistance force operate in Helmand, where the PRT has both military and civilian staff working to help the Afghan government develop the province.
Just over a week ago on January 18, two attacks in the province killed 17 people and wounded more than 20 others.
A suicide bomber on a motorcycle killed 10 civilians and two policemen in the first attack at a bazaar, while an intelligence official was among the dead in a second blast caused by a mine, which was claimed by the Taliban.
A day later a suicide bomber killed at least seven people and wounded eight in an attack at Kandahar international airport in neighbouring Kandahar province.
In that attack also, ISAF armoured vehicles were the target but there were no NATO casualties.
The latest deaths come as both sides have made moves towards peace talks, with the Taliban, toppled in late 2001 in a US-led invasion, announcing plans to open a political office in Qatar.
But the Islamic hardliners said this did not mean they had surrendered in the war against coalition forces, only that they would use their political wing alongside their military to achieve their aims.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility by the Taliban for the Lashkar Gah attack, which was condemned by President Hamid Karzai as “inhuman and un-Islamic”.
The United Nations said the number of civilians killed in violence in Afghanistan rose by 15 percent in the first six months of last year to 1,462, with insurgents blamed for 80 percent of the killings