Afghan bombings kill 16, target US base

AFP , Thursday 18 Aug 2011

Women and Children amongst the 16 killed in a bomb explosion that was aimed at a US base in the western province of Herat, Afghanistan

Bomb attacks killed 16 people in Afghanistan on Thursday, ripping through a minibus packed with civilians and targeting a US-run base in the east bordering Pakistan, officials said.

The attacks in opposite ends of the country underscored how pernicious Taliban-led insurgents have become in fighting to bring down the Western-backed government of President Hamid Karzai and evict 140,000 US-led foreign troops.

Women and children were among the casualties when a roadside bomb tore through the minibus in the western province of Herat, killing 14 civilians and wounding 11 others, the provincial government said.

The bus was travelling between the district of Obe and the provincial capital Herat city, local administration spokesman, Moheyddin Noori, told AFP.

"Fourteen people, all civilians, were killed and 11 others are injured. Women and children are among the casualties," he added.

A similar explosion hit a truck and injured four people in Obe district, Noori said. He was unable to give any further details immediately.

The local government spokesman blamed the bombing on "the armed opposition groups" -- a reference to Taliban-led insurgents, who have been fighting to win back power since the 2001 US-led invasion ousted them from government in Kabul.

Improvised bombs, built with old ammunition, have been the weapon of choice for the Taliban and other insurgents for nearly 10 years.

But the poorly made devices often kill civilians travelling on Afghan dirt roads between their villages and big cities.

Military officials say the makeshift bombs, also known as IEDs (improvised-explosive devices) are the main killer of troops in the US-led NATO forces deployed in Afghanistan and local Afghan security forces.

The Herat explosion followed a suicide car bombing at a US-run base in the eastern province of Paktia, killing two Afghan guards.

While western Afghanistan is considered relatively secure, the east has long been a flashpoint for violence, which Western officials say is fuelled by rear bases operated by the Taliban and other Islamist networks in Pakistan.

The bomber apparently tried to drive his explosive-laden vehicle into the base but was intercepted by guards, officials said.

"The bomber was in a vehicle. He tried to enter the base (but) the guards did not let him. He was frustrated and detonated at the very, very first gate," a coalition spokesman said.

"Two Afghan-contracted guards were killed," the spokesman told AFP.

The Paktia provincial police chief told AFP three people, two contracted guards and a border police officer in a nearby police base had been wounded.

The police chief, Abdul Ghafar Sapai, told AFP that the distance between the first barrier, where the truck bomb detonated, and the main gate was more than 100 metres (300 feet).

The base houses small groups of troops and civilian experts who are trying to help rebuild the war-torn country and enhance security. The groups are known as Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT) and are assigned across Afghanistan.

The PRTs are run by various Western nations as part of NATO's US-led International Security Assistance Force mission in Afghanistan. The Gardez PRT is run by the United States.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in Gardez, the capital of eastern Paktia province.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed contacted AFP from an undisclosed location by telephone, saying that dozens of US and Afghan troops were killed and wounded.

The Taliban are known to make exaggerated, sometimes false, statements when it comes to deaths caused in their attacks.

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