2 US service members die in separate attacks in Afghanistan
German military was the target, militants say
KABUL, Afghanistan - A suicide car bomb attack yesterday on a heavily guarded road between a American military base and the German Embassy in the Afghan capital killed one US service member and four Afghan civilians, officials said.
Separately, a US service member died when militants fired at a CH-47 transport helicopter and it made a "hard landing" in eastern Kunar province, the US military said. Colonel Greg Julian, a military spokesman, said it wasn't immediately clear whether the incoming fire brought down the helicopter.
The attacks come at a time of increasing attention on Afghanistan as President-elect Barack Obama is set to take office. Obama has promised to increase America's focus on the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan while decreasing troop levels in Iraq.
US officials have said they will send up to 30,000 additional troops into Afghanistan in 2009, including some 3,000 personnel in two provinces adjacent to Kabul, where militants now have free reign. The United States now has about 32,000 troops in Afghanistan.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the bomb attack in Kabul and said German military personnel were the targets. A spokesman for the German Foreign Ministry in Berlin said "some personnel" were wounded in the blast, but he did not give numbers. He said they had no reports of deaths.
Colonel Jerry O'Hara, a US military spokesman, said one US service member died from wounds received in the 9:45 a.m. attack on a busy Kabul street. The blast also wounded six American military personnel and a US civilian, he said.
"They detonated this explosive device right in a crowded area that was both used by civilians and military people," O'Hara said.
Four Afghan civilians died in the blast, and at least 19 wounded were being treated at two hospitals, the interior minister said. Two other wounded civilians were at other hospitals, said General Mohammad Zahir Azimi, an Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman.
The German embassy shares a small, two-lane road with Camp Eggers, a US base that serves as the headquarters for soldiers who train Afghan police and army personnel.
Dozens of armed Afghan security personnel guard the street, and blast walls of concrete and sand-filled mesh-wire boxes line the road.
The blast did not breach the wall of the base, military officials said. They could not say whether the base was also a target of the attack.
A Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, said a Taliban suicide bomber named Shumse Rehman carried out the attack in a
"The Germans have forces in the north of Afghanistan and they are involved in the killing of innocent Afghans. The Taliban will target all those countries who have forces in Afghanistan," he said.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier condemned "this cowardly act of barbarity."
"Germany stands by its commitment in Afghanistan," Steinmeier said. "We will not let terror deter us from continuing our aid to the Afghan people."
Germany has 3,200 troops in Afghanistan, mainly in the country's north. That region is considerably more peaceful than the country's east or south, but German troops are still the target of occasional bomb attacks.
The Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, also condemned the attack and offered condolences to the victims' families.
"These kind of un-Islamic and inhumane acts will only increase people's hatred for the terrorists," Karzai said.
In a third attack yesterday, a suicide bomber in a minivan charged a convoy of NATO troops and Afghan police in eastern Nangarhar province. The explosion in Chaparhar district killed one civilian and wounded three others, said Ghafor Khan, a spokesman for the provincial police chief. He said three police were also wounded.
Mujahid said the bombing was aimed at the foreign military forces in the convoy.