Wounded Afghans lie on beds at the main hospital in Jalalabad after they… (STR, AFP/Getty Images )
Reporting from Kabul — A suicide bomber dressed as an Afghan soldier attacked a joint Afghan and NATO forces base in eastern Afghanistan Saturday morning, killing five NATO troops and four Afghan soldiers in one of the deadliest attacks on coalition forces in recent days.
The bomber detonated a vest packed with explosives at the entrance to Forward Operating Base Gamberi in Laghman province at about 7:30 a.m., according to Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi.
NATO officials declined to release the nationalities of those killed.
Four Afghan soldiers and four interpreters were also wounded in the attack, Azimi said. The attacker struck during a meeting between Afghan soldiers and NATO mentors, according to U.S. Master Sgt. Jason Haag. Haag said it was not immediately clear whether the bomber was an Afghan soldier or posing as one.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mojahed said that the bomber, Abdul Ghani from the central Daykundi province, had joined the Afghan National Army a month ago and targeted the meeting of Afghan and foreign forces.
Several recent attacks by insurgents posing as Afghan security officials have sparked concern in recent weeks that the Taliban had infiltrated the ranks to deadly effect. On Friday, a Taliban suicide bomber in a police uniform detonated a bomb at police headquarters in the southern city of Kandahar, killing the police chief and a bodyguard and injuring several others.
Earlier this month, an attacker in an Afghan border police uniform shot and killed two American military trainers in Faryab province. In November, a veteran Afghan border police officer shot to death six American soldiers in the eastern province of Nangarhar and the Taliban later claimed responsibility.
Also on Saturday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai appeared with Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Gilani in Kabul to announce they had formed a commission to foster peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
Special correspondent Hashmat Baktash in Kabul contributed to this report.