- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 23, 2007

12:24 p.m. KABUL, Afghanistan — A suicide bomber with explosives strapped to his chest blew himself up in a crowd of workers outside a U.S. military base in eastern Afghanistan today, killing as many as 10 persons, officials said. The suicide bomber struck as hundreds of Afghan workers lined up to enter the base known as Camp Salerno outside the city of Khost, said provincial Gov. Jamal Arsalah. Mr. Arsalah, who visited the scene shortly after the explosion, said 10 men were killed and 14 others injured. However, officials with the NATO-led force that includes the U.S. base said eight Afghans, including two policemen, were killed and five others wounded. Maj. Matt Hackathorn, a U.S. military spokesman, said there was no immediate word of any U.S. military casualties. The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force said the attacker detonated an explosives-filled vest when he reached the point where people entering the base are searched. Suicide attacks have become much more frequent as Taliban militants have intensified their insurgency against Afghan government and foreign troops backing them. According to U.S. military figures, there were 139 suicide attacks during 2006, up from 27 in 2005. A renegade Afghan warlord whose fighters operate alongside Taliban and al Qaeda remnants warned separately that the United States faces a Soviet-style humiliation and should withdraw. The warlord, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, accused Washington of fomenting conflict among Afghan ethnic groups on a scale comparable with the strife in Iraq. “Everyone knows that the American aggressors are faced with defeat in every part of the country,” Mr. Hekmatyar said in a recording obtained in Pakistan. “They were unable to achieve their goals by bombing innocent Afghans, their villages and homes. They are preparing to leave like the Soviet troops.” In another sign of the heightened violence, suspected Taliban militants ambushed a highway police patrol in southern Afghanistan, killing nine officers, said Gen. Mohammad Qasem, police chief of the Uruzgan region. In the same region, Afghan and NATO-led forces battled suspected militants for nearly five hours, leaving 12 suspected Taliban dead, Gen. Qasem said. Two policemen were killed in that clash, he said. Today’s suicide attack was the deadliest since Sept. 30, when a suicide bomber killed 12 persons outside the gates of the Interior Ministry in Kabul. Khost, south of the capital, is a former al Qaeda stronghold on the mountainous Pakistani border that has been a focus of militant activity. Camp Salerno is the U.S. military’s main base in the east and includes an airfield.

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