Truck bomb injures U.S. soldiers at Afghan base
(CBS News) KABUL - The Taliban claimed responsibility Tuesday for a truck bomb attack at the perimeter of a U.S. base in the province of Logar, south of Kabul. No fatalities were reported although several people, including two U.S. soldiers, were injured.
The blast happened just hours after a remote-controlled roadside bomb killed at least nine Afghans who were traveling in a minibus.
The violence breaks a period of relative calm in Afghanistan during the holy month of Ramadan and comes during a crucial phase of transition as international troops prepare to hand over security control to Afghan forces and largely withdraw from the country in 2014.
Logar's police chief, Maj. Gen. Roogh Lawanay, described the attack on the U.S. base of Camp Shank, near the provincial capital of Puli Alam, to CBS News.
"At 9:30 this morning a truck full of gravel headed towards the base. It passed the first checkpoint manned by Afghan security forces and detonated at the second checkpoint manned by U.S. forces at the perimeter of the base," he said. "Eleven Afghan civilians who had been taking construction materials to the base and two U.S. soldiers were injured. The wounded were taken to medical facilities in the base."
Lawanay also said that the truck was owned by a local contractor authorized to work on the base.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid was quick to claim responsibility for the attack, saying the blast had in fact killed "dozens" of foreign troops, but this information could not be verified and the Taliban has been known to exaggerate in the past.
Earlier the same morning a remote-controlled device detonated and hit a minibus passing over a bridge in Paghman province, less than an hour's drive from Kabul. The minibus driver, Mohammed Nasim, survived the attack.
"A controlled bomb which was placed under the bridge exploded and hit my bus," he said. "I saw the man who planted the bomb arrested by people as he ran away from the scene."
Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi confirmed a suspect had been detained.
"The brutal Taliban member who planted the IED was chased and beaten by the villagers and was then handed over to local police," he said in a statement. "He is now being interrogated by police."
There is no clear evidence yet who was behind the attack and whether the minibus was the intended target. The Taliban has stayed silent over this particular incident but roadside bombs are typical tactics used by insurgents. Civilian casualties caused by such attacks have become a sensitive subject for militant groups, at times discouraging their supporters.
A spokesman for the International Security Forces in Afghanistan, Brig. Gen. Gunter Katz, condemned the loss of civilian life.
"The placement of this IED was clearly intended to indiscriminately murder innocent civilians during the holy month of Ramadan," he said. "This act clearly demonstrates the insurgents' lack of concern for the people of Afghanistan and their desire for peace and security for themselves, their families, and their nation."
The coalition has reported an uptick in violence in Afghanistan in recent months, which it says can be explained by the increased presence of Afghan security forces on the ground in remote regions which are not usually patrolled as often. But insurgents are continuing to reach areas that were once considered relatively safe, such the popular picnic spot near Kabul where the minibus was hit.
When the Interior Ministry pointed out on Twitter that local people had chased after the suspected bomber, the coalition tweeted in response "Afghan people losing fear of Taliban." But Tuesday's incidents will be of concern to both international forces and the Afghan government who are hoping for a smooth transition over the next 18 months. The Afghan people may have not quite yet lost their fear for the future.
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