A Taliban suicide car bomber targeting a NATO base at Jalalabad airport in eastern Afghanistan killed nine people yesterday, following days of deadly anti-US protests over the burning of the Koran.
Six civilians, an Afghan soldier and two local guards were killed, police said, but there were no reports of NATO casualties, according to a spokesman for the US-led International Security Assistance Force.
Taliban insurgents claimed responsibility for the blast, saying it was in revenge for the burning of Korans at a US military base, taking the toll in six days of violent protests across the country to about 40 people.
“The foreign forces have insulted our religion and this attack was revenge,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said.
On Sunday, seven US soldiers were wounded in a grenade attack during an anti-US demonstration at their base in northern Kunduz Province, police said.
On Saturday, two US advisers were shot dead in the Afghan Ministry of the Interior in Kabul just days after two US troops died when an Afghan soldier turned his weapon on them as thousands of demonstrators approached their base in the east.
The US embassy has been in lockdown since the violence erupted and has warned of a “heightened potential threat to American citizens in Afghanistan.”
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said on Sunday that the deadly protests in Afghanistan over the burning of Korans by US soldiers “must stop.”
“We deeply regret the incident that has led to this protest, but we also believe that violence must stop and the hard work for building a more peaceful and secure Afghanistan must continue,” she told a news conference.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai went on television on the same day to appeal for calm.
He condemned “with the strongest words” the treatment of Islam’s holy book and said the perpetrators should be punished, but told his countrymen: “Now that we have shown our feelings it is time to be calm and peaceful.”
Karzai said he respected the emotions of Afghans upset by the Koran burning in an incinerator pit at Bagram airbase, north of Kabul, but urged them not to let “the enemies of Afghanistan misuse their feelings.”
Taliban insurgents have called on Afghans to kill foreign troops in revenge for the incident and claimed to have been behind the killing of the two US advisers in the interior ministry.
The shooting prompted NATO and several European countries to pull their advisers out of Afghan government ministries, while fallout from the Koran burnings widened as Afghan ministers cancelled a visit to Washington.
The Pentagon said on Sunday that Afghanistan’s defense and interior ministers had canceled a visit to Washington this week to concentrate on addressing security concerns at home.
An Afghan government official said the US advisers killed in the interior ministry had been mocking anti-US protests over the burning of the Koran in the presence of an Afghan colleague before being shot.
Government sources said police were hunting for an Afghan intelligence official suspected of killing the two advisers.
US President Barack Obama has apologized for the burning of the Korans, which officials said were inadvertently sent to the incinerator.
Meanwhile, Republican presidential hopeful and former US senator Rick Santorum criticized Obama’s apology for the burning of Korans in Afghanistan, adding that Afghanistan should apologize to the US for the deaths of four US soldiers during six days of violence sparked by the incident.