AFGHAN CAPITAL Car bomber strikes near U.S. Embassy
Taliban have been using Iraqi-style tactics to try to derail the government.
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- In the most brazen attack yet on Kabul's heavily guarded center, a car bomber rammed into an American humvee outside the U.S. Embassy on Friday, killing 16 other people, including two U.S. soldiers. It was the Afghan capital's deadliest suicide attack since the 2001 toppling of the Taliban.
A purported Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousaf Ahmadi, claimed responsibility for the attack, according to the privately run Pajhwok Afghan News Agency. Ahmadi's exact ties to the Taliban leadership are unclear.
The morning blast spewed body parts and pieces of U.S. military uniforms across a major road and into trees that were set ablaze by the explosion -- part of the worst spate of violence in Afghanistan since the collapse of the hard-line Islamic regime.
The attack shattered what had been a typically peaceful Muslim sabbath in the war-ravaged capital and revealed the lingering vulnerability of foreign troops, local forces and Afghan civilians to terrorist attacks almost five years after a pro-American government was installed. Attacks in central Kabul have been rare in comparison to areas on the edge of the city and in the country's south.
About the bombing
Some 20,000 NATO soldiers and a similar number of U.S. forces are trying to crush the emboldened Taliban insurgency, mainly in southern Afghanistan. Taliban holdouts have been turning to Iraqi-style tactics -- including increasing numbers of suicide bombings -- to try to derail the government of President Hamid Karzai.
In a statement, the Afghan president said "today's heinous act of terrorism is against the values of Islam and humanity."
The attack in Kabul took place as many Afghans were commemorating the assassination of anti-Taliban commander Ahmad Shah Massood, who was killed in an al-Qaida suicide bombing two days before the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States.
Friday's explosion went off at 10:20 a.m. just 150 feet from the landmark Massood Square, which leads to the main gate of the heavily fortified American Embassy compound. It tore a 6-foot-wide crater into the road and left body parts, Muslim prayer caps, floppy khaki-colored military hats and shoes scattered over a wide area.
Najibullah Faizi, 25, saw a blue Toyota Corolla driven by a young, heavyset man speed past another car on the inside lane before slamming into one of two U.S. humvees in a convoy.
"I fell to the ground after the blast. American soldiers started shooting at another car nearby. There was smoke and flames everywhere," Faizi said.
The blast sent a plume of brown smoke spiraling hundreds of feet into the sky and tore apart one of the humvees, blowing it onto what had been its roof and turning it into a twisted, flaming hulk of metal.
All that remained of the bomb-packed car was its front end, which was covered in flames some 60 feet away. A foot and ankle -- apparently the attacker's -- was thrown 100 feet farther.
Angry residents condemned the bombing and demanded militants end attacks in heavily populated areas.
"This is a cowardly action that terrorists always take. They don't care if it is a residential area, government area or military area," said resident Mohammed Hayder Nangahari.
Pharmacist Nawid Paidar, 31, said the killing of children, men and women in terrorist attacks was inhumane and he blamed militants crossing from Pakistan for the latest bombing.
"The Americans should execute those who organize terrorist attacks as a lesson to others," Paidar said as he removed pieces of wood and other debris from his damaged storefront.
Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf visited Kabul this week for talks with Karzai. The leaders, both key allies of U.S. forces hunting Osama bin Laden along their vast, tribal-dominated frontier, vowed to improve cooperation to defeat the "common enemy" of terrorism.
The blast's force shattered every window in a five-story, Soviet-era apartment block facing the bomb scene, spraying shards of glass over children eating their breakfasts and women cleaning their cramped homes. Restaurants and businesses on the other side of the road also had windows and doors blown in.
An Associated Press reporter saw the bodies of two American soldiers lying near their burning vehicle. U.S. troops stood guard around the bodies, one of which was slumped in the gutter, the other covered by a plastic sheet. The U.S. military initially said two other soldiers were also wounded, but later revised it down to one.
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