5 coalition soldiers die in latest attack in Taliban suicide campaign

Posted April 16, 2011, at 5:56 p.m.

KABUL, Afghanistan — At least five soldiers from the U.S.-led coalition were killed Saturday when a suicide bomber dressed as a soldier blew himself up at a military base in the eastern province of Laghman, Afghanistan, the single deadliest attack on the alliance in months.

A statement from the International Security Assistance Force, as the coalition is known formally, did not give the nationalities of the dead soldiers nor say where the attack took place, but an Afghan defense ministry spokesman said four of the dead were Afghans. He said eight people were wounded, four of them Afghans serving as interpreters.

Defense Ministry Gen. Zahir Azimy said foreign soldiers also suffered casualties but declined to give details.

Officials in Laghman province, where the attack took place, gave a higher death toll for Afghans, with Faizanullah Patan, the governor’s spokesman, saying seven Afghans had died. He gave no figure for foreign soldiers.

The suicide attack, which Azimy said took place in Laghman’s Gamberi district, was the latest in a Taliban campaign aimed at police, soldiers and government supporters throughout the country.

On Friday, a suicide bomber wearing a police uniform detonated his explosives inside the police headquarters in Kandahar in southern Afghanistan, killing the provincial police chief and woundin g three others. Bombers in the last week also struck a police training camp in Paktia province, killing three, a meeting of tribal leaders in Kunar province, killing 10, and a police headquarters s outh of Kabul, where no dead were reported but the building was devastated.

Saturday’s attack in Laghman was notable because the province is considered relatively peaceful. Its capital, Mehterlam, is one of five cities where Afghan forces are scheduled to assume security functions from the coalition this summer.

The Taliban claimed the attack in a posting on their website and said the bomber had joined the Afghan army a month ago “for this purpose.” The Taliban said the target of the bomber, who it called “the hero,” had been a meeting of senior military officials that included foreigners “on a base of the puppet army.”

The statement claimed that 14 Afghan soldiers and 12 foreign soldiers had died. The Taliban frequently exaggerates the outcome of their attacks.

Azimy confirmed, however, that the bomber was wearing an Afghan army uniform when he detonated his explosives.

 

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