Suicide bomber kills 13 in Kabul: defense ministry

KABUL (Reuters) - A suicide bomber targeted a bus carrying Afghan army personnel in Kabul on Wednesday, killing six military staff and seven civilians, the defense ministry said.

Family members attend to a man wounded from Wednesday's suicide car bomb blast, at a hospital in Kabul December 5, 2007. REUTERS/Ahmad Masood

The bomber used a car in the attack, which happened during the morning rush hour on a road in the southwestern part of the

city, the ministry said in a statement.

More than a dozen people including seven army officers were wounded, some seriously, in the blast, the second such suicide bombing in Kabul since Tuesday, a ministry source told Reuters.

“Six of the National Army staff and seven civilians were martyred,” the statement said. Ministry spokesman Zahir Azimi said five of the army dead were officers.

It was not immediately clear if the civilians were traveling in the bus or caught on the road by the blast, which also caused gas containers in a nearby shop to explode, witnesses said.

They said ambulances rushed to evacuate the victims. A Taliban spokesman said a member of the resurgent Islamic group carried out the attack.

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Removed from power in 2001, the Taliban rely heavily on suicide raids and roadside bomb attacks as part of their insurgency against the Afghan government and foreign troops stationed in the country.

The worst suicide attack in Kabul hit an army bus in September and killed 28 army personnel.

On Tuesday, a NATO convoy was hit by a similar attack close to Kabul’s international airport. There were no casualties among NATO forces, but 22 Afghans were wounded, according to


A rising level of violence in the past two years which has killed more than 10,000 people, has made it the bloodiest period since the Taliban’s ouster and left an increasing number of Afghans frustrated with the lack of progress toward peace.

The blast on Tuesday came during a visit by Defense Secretary Robert Gates to assess the rising violence. A Taliban spokesman said the militant Islamic group carried out the attack to “welcome” Gates.

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Afghanistan’s army chief, General Bismillah Khan, asked Gates for more security trainers and equipment to fight the Taliban insurgency.

“The biggest problem is we don’t have enough mentors, enough advisers,” Khan told Gates on Tuesday after the two toured the Kabul Military Training Centre. “I need your prompt attention on this matter.”

Gates said the Pentagon was looking for ways to expedite delivery of needed weapons and supplies to Afghanistan. But he stressed other NATO partners in Afghanistan must dedicate more resources to the war effort.

He has repeatedly called on Europe to send more trainers, combat troops and equipment to Afghanistan and has argued that any progress made in the war could be lost if NATO cannot muster the resources that commanders say they need.

A recent poll conducted for three Western television networks showed only 42 percent of Afghans rated U.S. efforts positively, down from 68 percent in 2005 and 57 percent last year.

The United States has 26,000 troops in Afghanistan. About half are involved in NATO operations and half on other missions.

Editing by Jerry Norton