Bomb attack kills 7 in Kabul; UN staff among dead

Started by sukishan, Aug 18, 2009, 10:51 PM

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suicide car bomb attacked a NATO convoy Tuesday on the outskirts of Kabul, killing at least seven civilians and wounding more than 50 people, officials said. Afghans working for the United Nations were among the dead and wounded.

The attack occurred two days before national elections in which Afghans are to select a new president. The Taliban have denounced the election and warned people they would be at risk if they go to polling stations. Hours before the suicide blast, two mortar rounds struck near the presidential palace in Kabul, the U.S. military said.

NATO announced Tuesday that its forces would refrain from offensive military operations on election day and would undertake missions only if they were "deemed necessary to protect the population."

The suicide attack on the road, close to a British military base, killed seven civilians and wounded 50, a statement from the Ministry of Interior said.

NATO said "reports indicate" that both Afghan civilians and NATO troops "were killed and wounded in the blast" near a NATO convoy. The statement did not elaborate.

The head of the U.N. mission to Afghanistan, Kai Eide, said in a statement that two U.N. staff members were killed and one was wounded. All were Afghans, he said. It was not clear if the U.N. dead were included in the ministry's toll.

British troops were guarding the site of the explosion as rescuers rushed the wounded to hospitals. An Associated Press reporter at the scene saw British soldiers collecting what appeared to be body parts from the roof of an Afghan home.

About a dozen private vehicles were destroyed near the road where the attack happened. People used their hands to dig through the rubble of damaged buildings. Families carried the wounded away from the scene.

U.S., NATO and Afghan security forces are on high alert this week because of the Thursday vote. President Hamid Karzai is favored to win but faces a stiff challenge from former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah. About three dozen candidates are in the race.

Elsewhere, a suicide bomber struck the gates of an Afghan army base in the southern province of Uruzgan, killing three Afghan soldiers and two civilians, provincial police chief Juma Gul Himat said.

U.S. military spokeswoman Capt. Elizabeth Mathias had no details of damage or casualties from the attack on the presidential compound.

Neither Karzai or anyone else was wounded in the attack, said deputy presidential spokesman Hamid Elmi. He said the rounds probably hit "somewhere around the compound," but he had no further details.

Attacks in Afghanistan have risen steadily the last three years. In a speech Monday in Phoenix, President Barack Obama said U.S. troops would help secure polling places so that the elections can go forward and Afghans can choose their own future.

Obama said peace in Afghanistan "will not be quick" and "will not be easy." He added that the United States still has a deep interest in the long-term outcome.

"This is not only a war worth fighting. This is fundamental to the defense of our people," Obama said.
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