The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

April 6, 2013

Six Americans, doctor killed in Afghan attacks

By MIRWAIS KHAN and PATRICK QUINN
Associated Press

KANDAHAR, Afghan-istan — Militants killed six Americans and an Afghan doctor in a pair of attacks in Afghanistan on Saturday, the deadliest day for the United States in the war in eight months.

The violence — hours after the U.S. military’s top officer arrived for consultations with Afghan and U.S.-led coalition officials — illustrates the instability plaguing the nation as foreign forces work to pull nearly all their combat troops out of the country by the end of 2014.

The attacks came just days after insurgents stormed a courthouse, killing more than 46 people in one of the deadliest attacks of the war, now in its 12th year.

Three U.S. service members, two U.S. civilians and the doctor were killed when a suicide bomber detonated a car full of explosives in the south, officials said. The explosion occurred just as a coalition convoy drove past another caravan of vehicles carrying the governor of Zabul province.

Another American civilian was killed in a separate insurgent attack in eastern Afghanistan, the U.S. military said in a statement.

It was the deadliest day for Americans since Aug. 16, when seven American service members were killed in two attacks in Kandahar province, the birthplace of the Taliban insurgency. Six were killed when their helicopter was shot down by insurgents and one soldier died in a roadside bomb explosion.

The latest attacks occurred just hours after U.S. Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, landed in Afghanistan for a visit aimed at assessing the level of training that American troops can provide to Afghan security forces after international combat forces complete their withdrawal.

The two American civilians killed included at least one U.S. State Department employee, according to a U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of a formal announcement. Several other Americans and Afghans, possibly as many as nine, were wounded, the official said.

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul confirmed that Americans were involved in an attack in Qalat, the capital of Zabul province, which is next to Kandahar and shares a volatile border with Pakistan.

“There are American and Afghan casualties,” the embassy said in a statement. “We are still investigating the incident and cannot confirm details at this time.”

Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi claimed responsibility for the attack in Zabul and said the bomber was seeking to target either a coalition convoy or the governor.

“We were waiting for one of them,” Ahmadi said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. “It was our good luck that both appeared at the same time.”

The deaths bring the number of foreign military troops killed this year to 30, including 22 Americans. A total of six foreign civilians have died in Afghanistan so far this year, according to an AP count.

Provincial Gov. Mohammad Ashraf Nasery, who was driving to an event at a nearby school in Qalat, said the explosion occurred in front of a hospital and a coalition base housing a provincial reconstruction team, or PRT. International civilian and military workers at the PRT train Afghan government officials and help with local development projects.

Nasery, who survived the attack, said the car bomb exploded as his convoy was passing the hospital. He said the doctor was killed, and two of his bodyguards and a student from the school were wounded.

“The governor’s convoy was at the gate of the school at the same time the (coalition) convoy came out from the PRT,” said provincial police chief Gen. Ghulam Sakhi Rooghlawanay. “The suicide bomber blew himself up between the two convoys.”