KABUL: A suicide attacker detonated a minibus packed with explosives near the gates of a military base in southern Afghanistan on Sunday, killing six Nato troops and two Afghan soldiers, officials said.
Afghan officials said the attack took place in the Zhari district of Kandahar province, where the US poured in troops this summer as part of a surge of forces to try to oust the Taliban from its southern strongholds.
Gen. Abdul Hamid, the Afghan army chief for the province, said the attacker drove a minibus into the entrance of the base Sunday morning just as vehicles were preparing to move out on a patrol.
”They were leaving the compound and at that moment, the minibus attacked and they hit right at the entrance of the base,” Hamid said.
Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi claimed responsibility for the attack, saying the insurgent group was retaliating for all the attacks launched on them in the area in recent months.
Nato said only that the service members had been killed in an insurgent attack and declined to identify their nationalities. Most Nato troops in the south are American. More than 670 international troops have been killed so far this year, well above the 502 killed in the whole of 2009.
Sunday’s attack was the second incident in two weeks to kill so many service members. On Nov. 29, an Afghan policeman turned his gun on his American trainers in the east, killing six of them before he was gunned down. The Taliban claimed that they had sent him to join the police as a sleeper agent. Before that, five US soldiers were killed in a Nov. 14 insurgent attack on their unit in eastern Afghanistan.
Also Sunday, Nato said a joint Nato-Afghan force killed a Taliban leader and captured a key member of another militant group in the east.
The Taliban leader was involved in weapons smuggling and attacks in eastern Wardak province, according to a statement. Nato identified him only by his first name, Fedahi.
Nato said two men threatened coalition troops as they entered a compound Saturday night where they had heard Fedahi was staying. They shot and killed both men, one of whom was later identified as Fedahi, the statement said. It said no civilians were harmed in the operation.
In a separate raid in eastern Khost province Saturday night, Nato and Afghan troops captured a leader of the Haqqani network, a Pakistan-based Taliban faction closely tied to al-Qaida.
Coalition troops nabbed the insurgent in a compound in Terayzai district, Nato said. The detainee, it said, has conducted bomb attacks and ambushes against Afghan and coalition troops. – AP