Taliban bomb hits US firm, mine kills 10 Afghan girls
JALALABAD - Agence France-Presse
Afghan volunteers carry the body one of the girls who were killed when a landmine exploded while they were collecting firewood, towards a vehicle in Jalalabad on December 17, 2012. AFP PhotoA Taliban car bomb targeted a US company in Kabul on Monday, killing one person and wounding at least 15 shortly after a landmine killed 10 young girls in eastern Afghanistan, officials said.
It was the most brazen assault targeting Westerners in the fortified Afghan capital since a suicide car bomber killed 12 people, including eight South Africans, on September 18.
A security source at the military contracting firm, Contrack, told AFP that five foreigners, including Americans and South Africans, were among the wounded, but police said only three foreigners were slightly injured, mainly by flying glass.
Contrack is a US-owned company which builds military facilities for the Afghan army and police, an employee said.
"We were sitting in the office. There was a massive explosion. The ceiling collapsed over us and 10 to 12 Afghans in the office were wounded," he said.
Police said it was not immediately clear whether anyone had been in the truck when the huge explosion occurred.
"A small truck packed with explosives detonated between Contrack and Najeeb Zarab factories -- one person is dead and 15 others are wounded," Kabul police chief Mohammad Ayoub Salangi told AFP.
"We don't yet know whether there was someone in the truck or it was detonated remotely. They were very powerful explosives." The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was a suicide car bombing carried out by a "hero mujahid" on "an important American company which provided security services to the invading forces".
"This company was under the surveillance of the mujahedin for a while and thanks God today the opportunity was provided to attack it," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement.
The militia, which was ousted from power in Kabul by a 2001 US-led invasion, is fighting to bring down the Western-backed government and to expel US-led foreign troops.
An AFP reporter at the scene said there were signs of a huge explosion beyond an area blocked off by police, and some bystanders had also suffered minor injuries.
In May, Taliban bombers disguised in burqas attacked a heavily fortified guesthouse used by Westerners in the same area. Seven people were killed at the "Green Village" complex used by the European Union, the United Nations and aid groups.
A US-led NATO force of some 100,000 troops is backing the Kabul government against the Taliban insurgents, but they are due to pull out in 2014 and are training the Afghan army and police to take over responsibility for security.
In eastern Afghanistan, 10 girls aged nine to 11 died when one of them accidentally struck a mine with an axe as they were collecting firewood before going to school in a Taliban-troubled area.
"An old mine left over from the time of the jihad (against Soviet troops in the 1980s) exploded, killing 10 girls and wounding two others," Chaparhar district governor Mohammad Sediq Dawlatzai told AFP.
Nangarhar provincial government spokesman Ahmad Zia Abdulzai said, however, that the mine was planted by "the enemies of Afghanistan" -- a reference to the Taliban -- even if it had been in that spot for some time.
Most of the bodies were so badly shattered that they could hardly be recognised, Dawlatzai said.
Despite international clearance efforts, more than three decades of war have left Afghanistan one of the most heavily-mined countries in the world.
The explosives were placed during three recent conflicts: the 1980s war against the Soviets, the 1990s civil war, and during fighting between the Northern Alliance and the Taliban before they were ousted from power in 2001.
The Taliban now plant bombs, or improvised explosive devices, to target Afghan troops and their NATO backers but these regularly kill civilians.