Suicide Bomber Strikes NATO Convoy In Afghanistan

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A Taliban militant crashed his explosives-laden car into a NATO convoy in the heart of Kabul, killing six Western soldiers — five of them American — and a dozen Afghans. It was the first major attack in the capital since February.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

I'm Melissa Block.

And we begin this hour in Afghanistan. The capital, Kabul, has been relatively peaceful in recent months. That is, until today when a Taliban suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden car into a NATO convoy. Among the dead are six Western soldiers, five of them Americans and 12 Afghan civilians, including women and children on a passenger bus. Dozens more suffered burns and shrapnel wounds.

NPR's Quil Lawrence went to the scene of the attack and sent this report.

QUIL LAWRENCE: In the middle of the morning rush hour, the bomber found his target, a convoy of American and coalition personnel driving heavily armored SUVs near a U.S. military base in Western Kabul.

(Soundbite of city)

Unidentified People: (Speaking foreign language)

LAWRENCE: The blast was so powerful that hardly a trace of the car bomb could be found, said one Afghan policeman at the scene. He pointed out scraps of blackened metal that landed a quarter mile from the explosion. Bashir Ahmad(ph), owner of a nearby shop, saw it happen.

Mr. BASHIR AHMAD (Shop Owner): (Speaking foreign language)

LAWRENCE: The foreigner's convoy was coming and suddenly the car bomber blocked the road, he said, adding that the explosion blew one of the SUVs across the other side of the highway. American and NATO soldiers arrived quickly and cordoned off the road.

(Soundbite of people)

Unidentified Man #1: Hang on, hang on, hang on.

Unidentified Man #2: We're going that way? I'm going that way anyway.

LAWRENCE: Near a crater nine feet wide, U.S. troops carried away the dead on stretchers. The blast totaled two of the armored SUVs, their bulletproof windows now gaping holes in a blackened shell. In the other lane of traffic was the twisted hulk of an Afghan taxi and a passenger bus. Witnesses said the bodies of women and children were carried off the bus.

Afghan police and medical workers collected human remains after rushing the wounded to the hospital. A spokesman for the NATO-led coalition, Colonel Wayne Shanks, said the international force would not be deterred.

Colonel WAYNE SHANKS (Spokesman, NATO International Security Assistance Force): We did have six international service members who were killed and several others wounded when we had a vehicle suicide-borne device go off. Also, numerous other Afghan civilians were killed and wounded in what we consider a very indiscriminate act.

LAWRENCE: Shanks confirmed that five of the six internationals were American. A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for the attack, which he said involved nearly a ton of explosives. It made a cold welcome for Afghan President Hamid Karzai just back from a fence-mending trip to Washington. The blast was audible even several miles east at the presidential palace where Karzai was preparing to brief the press on his trip.

President HAMID KARZAI (Afghanistan): (Speaking foreign language)

LAWRENCE: Karzai condemned the attack on both the NATO forces and Afghan civilians and said he hoped Afghanistan could somehow be rid of such hardship. Karzai's plan to do that includes negotiations with the Taliban. Almost all Afghan and American officials now agree that some measure of negotiation is the price for peace in Afghanistan. But attacks like today's make the idea of reconciliation more difficult for Afghans as well as U.S. soldiers.

Quil Lawrence, NPR News, Kabul.

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