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Afghanistan blasts wound 9 Western troops

Two explosions killed at least three children and an Afghan policeman and injured dozens of people, officials say.

January 07, 2010|By Laura King
  • Office employees in Jordan's capital watch a report about Jordanian Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal Balawi, identified as the bomber in the Khowst suicide attack.
Office employees in Jordan's capital watch a report about Jordanian… (Khalil Mazraawi / AFP/Getty…)

Reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan — Two explosions in eastern Afghanistan on Wednesday killed at least three children and an Afghan policeman and injured dozens of people, including nine Western troops, officials said.

The blasts -- one outside the east's main urban hub of Jalalabad and the other in troubled Khowst province, scene of last week's suicide bombing that killed seven CIA employees -- come on the heels of what military officials describe as a major offensive against the Haqqani network, a Pakistan-based insurgent group blamed for some of the war's deadliest attacks.

The Haqqani network, led by Sirajuddin Haqqani, son of a famed Soviet-era militant commander, mainly operates in the east along the border with Pakistan's tribal areas.

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan's once-calm north, Afghan officials on Wednesday reported the deaths of 14 insurgents who were allegedly attempting to transport a massive load of explosives into the city of Kunduz, the capital of Kunduz province. The bomb-laden vehicle exploded prematurely Tuesday night about five miles north of the city, the Interior Ministry said.

The violence was in line with what intelligence officials have described as a concerted effort by the Taliban and other militant groups to keep up pressure on coalition forces in traditional battlegrounds such as the south and east while pushing into parts of the country where Afghan security forces and Western troops are more thinly deployed, such as the north.

Even when aimed at security forces, insurgent bombings often kill and injure civilians.

The midmorning explosion in Rodat district, south of Jalalabad, apparently was aimed at a symbolically important target: a road project funded by the United States. Afghan and foreign troops, together with local officials, were visiting the site when the blast took place.

Afghan officials said the explosion was caused by a land mine that detonated when a police truck passed, and termed it a terrorist attack. Western military officials, though, said the cause was still being investigated. The Interior Ministry said a police officer was among the dead.

The nationalities of the nine injured Western troops were not disclosed by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, but most of the foreign forces in the east are Americans.

The Interior Ministry said three children were killed, but the Associated Press quoted the provincial health chief as putting the number at four. Dozens of onlookers, many of them youngsters, were injured.

The explosion in Khowst took place in the provincial capital, Khowst city. Forward Operating Base Chapman, where the seven American intelligence employees and a Jordanian intelligence colleague were killed Dec. 30 by a bomber believed to have been a double agent for Al Qaeda, lies just outside the city.

Wednesday's blast took place outside a music store in a busy market, injuring at least 15 people. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but Khowst's acting governor, Tahir Khan Sabari, said the shop might have been targeted because of the Taliban movement's harsh condemnation of entertainment such as music and films.

Amid the latest violence, NATO's International Security Assistance Force detailed nearly two dozen senior insurgent figures, many with the Haqqani network, who were captured or killed in the last six weeks. It said all had been involved in planning attacks against Western and Afghan forces, and in the cross-border trafficking of fighters, weapons and funds.

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