Tue, May 20, 2008 - Page 5 News List

Suicide bombing kills four civilians in Afghan town


A Taliban suicide bomber killed four Afghans on Sunday in the heart of a town taken from rebels five months ago, while a foreign soldier in a US-led force died in another blast, officials said.

The soldier, whose nationality was not released, was killed with an Afghan “non-combatant” in the blast in the southern province of Zabul, the coalition said in a statement that gave no further details.

Another soldier was seriously injured in the attack in which a bomb blew up a military vehicle, it said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombing, but the extremist Taliban militia — in government until 2001 — has carried out a series of similar attacks.

The insurgent group confirmed it was behind a suicide bombing that tore through a bazaar in the town of Musa Qala, a Taliban base and drugs center in the province of Helmand for 10 months until troops entered in December.

The attacker ran at a police vehicle patrolling the town and exploded on impact, Helmand Province police chief Mohammad Hussein Andiwal said.

Four civilians were killed and three wounded, two of them seriously, Andiwal said. Five policemen were hurt.

A day earlier a NATO helicopter carrying Helmand Governor Gulab Mangal came under fire from Taliban militants as it was about to land in Musa Qala.

The chopper was able to divert to a nearby outpost of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and no one was hurt, the ISAF said.

There have been sporadic attacks in and around Musa Qala since British and Afghan troops marched into the town in December, sending rebels fleeing.

British troops and US Marines launched an operation in Helmand’s Garmser district three weeks ago and an officer said on Sunday the insurgents were under pressure and bringing in reinforcements.

“Definitely they are putting resistance in the area because Garmser is very important for them,” ISAF spokesman General Carlos Branco said. “Garmser is a planning, staging and logistics hub. Once lost it will mean a severe defeat for them. That is why they are reinforcing with insurgents coming from other places, both north and south.”

Branco said the rebels had suffered “heavy losses.”

Garmser adjoins Pakistan and is said to be a through-route for reinforcements and supplies from across the border.

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