Afghan policemen investigate the site of an explosion in Kabul. Photo by Reuters
Afghanistan's Taliban movement has claimed responsibility for
a suicide bombing in Kabul which targeted a U.S. contracting
company and killed two Afghan civilians, underscoring
security challenges ahead of a NATO pullout.
Hours earlier, a blast in eastern Afghanistan killed 10
Afghan girls, between nine and 11 years old, as they
The Taliban and its allies have staged high-profile attacks
in Kabul over the past few years against Western targets,
including embassies. Attacks on Western companies are rare.
"A suicide car bomber attacked an important American company
which is involved in security," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah
Mujahid said in a statement.
"The company was under our surveillance for a long time and
today we succeeded."
After more than a decade of war against Western forces with
superior firepower and technology, the Taliban remain a
potent force capable of striking in the heart of Kabul.
Many Afghans fear the Taliban, who were toppled by
U.S.-backed Afghan forces in 2001, will push to seize power
again after most NATO combat troops leave by the end of 2014.
They also worry another civil war could erupt.
The Afghan government says the Taliban have no chance of
taking over and that police and troops can take control once
Western forces pull out.
An Interior Ministry spokesman said two Afghan civilians were
killed in the Kabul attack and that the 15 wounded included
The Virginia-based company that was targeted, Contrack
International, has built fuel storage systems in military
bases in Afghanistan.
After the blast, Western men clutching weapons walked outside
the company compound as ambulances sped by. A NATO soldier
walked by parts of a building that was torn apart by the
blast, which left a large crater. A brick wall collapsed.
The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF)
said the blast occurred near Camp Phoenix, a U.S. military
base where Afghan soldiers are trained.
"The attack did not seem to be directed at ISAF forces," said
Lieutenant-Colonel Les Carroll, an ISAF spokesman.
Kabul Police Chief General Ayoub Salangi said explosives were
planted in a small truck.
The Taliban have expanded their reach beyond their
strongholds in southern and eastern Afghanistan to some areas
in the north which were relatively peaceful for years.
It was not immediately clear what killed the girls who were
collecting wood in volatile Nangarhar province in the east.
It could have been a bomb planted by insurgents or, for
instance, a landmine left over from decades of conflict.
One official in the area said they were apparently killed by
a rocket warhead which exploded while they dug it up from the
ground out of curiosity.
"Unfortunately, 10 little girls were killed and two others
wounded," said Ahmadzia Abdulzai, the provincial government