Suicide Bomber Attacks Foreigners near Kabul

Posted September 18th, 2012 at 12:05 pm (UTC-5)
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A suicide bomber has killed at least 12 people in an attack on a mini-bus carrying foreigners near the Afghan capital.

Police say nine foreign workers, their Afghan driver, and two other Afghans were killed when the bomber detonated a car full of explosives near the bus Tuesday on the highway to the Kabul airport.

South Africa's Foreign Ministry confirmed eight of the dead were South Africans. The Afghan president's office said the ninth foreign victim was a citizen from Kyrgyzstan.

Afghanistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned the attack “in the strongest terms,” calling it “senseless and grotesque.”

Afghan insurgent group Hezb-e-Islami claimed responsibility for the attack. The group said it sent a female bomber in response to an anti-Islam, online video that has sparked worldwide protests, including in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, NATO confirmed to VOA it is scaling back joint operations with Afghan security forces amid a series of recent insider attacks and the release of the video.

Fifty-one international troops have been killed this year in at least 30 insider attacks.

Coalition spokesman Charlie Stadtlander said in a statement, “most partnering and advising will now be at the battalion level and above.” The need for partnering below that level “will be evaluated on a case by case basis by RC (regional) commanders.”

Stadtlander said the head of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, General John Allen, directed all operational commanders to review force protection and tactical activities “in light of the current circumstances.” The guidance was given at the recommendation of, and in conjunction with, key Afghan leaders.

Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague played down the measure in comments to British lawmakers on Tuesday, saying the impact on British operations “will be minimal.” In a statement issued later on Tuesday, NATO reaffirmed that it remains “committed to partnering with, training, advising and assisting Afghan forces.”

In Beijing, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters the insider attacks were a matter of concern but that General Allen is taking the necessary steps to counter the problem. Panetta added that NATO's plan to handover security responsibility to Afghan forces by the end of 2014 remained on track.

NATO separately issued a statement recognizing Kabul police's “proactive role” in maintaining control of recent demonstrations and its efforts to “maintain public calm.” NATO reiterated its condemnation of the “inappropriate videos that were disrespectful” toward Islam and “contrary to the thoughts and values of the coalition.”

This week's violence comes just days after insurgents dressed in U.S. Army uniforms attacked a British military base in the southern province of Helmand. The militants, armed with automatic rifles, rocket propelled grenade launchers and suicide vests killed two U.S. Marines and destroyed jets and refueling stations during Friday's assault in Camp Bastion.

Tuesday, NATO said an Afghan and coalition force arrested one of the Taliban leaders behind the Camp Bastion attack during an operation in the Nad Ali district of Helmand province.