A Taliban suicide car bomber struck a NATO convoy in Kabul Tuesday, killing six of its service members, five of them American, officials said. Twelve Afghan civilians also died — many of them in a public bus in rush hour traffic.
Forty-seven other people were wounded in the blast, the first major attack in the capital since February when suicide bombers struck two small hotels in the city center. That attack killed 16 people and led Afghan police to pledge that they would tighten security and surveillance.
Police have publicized a number of arrests of would-be bombers since then, but Tuesday's bombing was a reminder that the city's defenses can still be penetrated by determined attackers.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told The Associated Press in a phone call from an undisclosed location that the bomber was a man from Kabul and his car was packed with 1,650 pounds (750 kilograms) of explosive. The target of the attack was the foreign convoy, he said.
The area around the blast site was littered with debris as U.S. troops and Afghan police held a security cordon around wrecked cars, the bus and sports utility vehicles. There were no obviously military vehicles but NATO troops often travel in unmarked SUVs in the capital.
NATO said six of its service members were killed in the attack, and U.S. forces spokesman Col. Wayne Shanks confirmed that five of those were American. The nationality of the sixth was not immediately disclosed.
It was the deadliest attack for NATO in the capital since a September suicide bombing that killed six Italian soldiers. The attack comes as NATO readies a major offensive in the southern province of Kandahar, a major Taliban stronghold.
At least 12 Afghan civilians also died and 47 were wounded Tuesday — most of them in the packed city bus, the Interior Ministry said.
President Hamid Karzai condemned the attack.
"There were casualties among the NATO forces as well as among civilians — women, children and schoolchildren," Karzai told a news conference.
NATO said that five of its vehicles were damaged and more than a dozen civilian vehicles.
The Feb. 26 attack against two residential hotels killed six Indians, along with 10 Afghans. Afghan authorities blamed the attack on Lashkar-e-Taiba, the same Pakistan-based Islamist militia that India blames for the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks that killed 166 people.
Associated Press Writer Heidi Vogt contributed to this report.
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