KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A roadside bomb blast killed five Polish soldiers in eastern Afghanistan on Wednesday, NATO and a Polish official said, in the deadliest single attack for the Polish military there.
Polish spokesman Jacek Sonta said in Warsaw that the soldiers were in a convoy headed to Rawza, in eastern Ghazni province, when it struck the bomb.
The Taliban immediately claimed responsibility for the attack in a text message to journalists. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said “a Polish tank” was blown up and all its occupants were killed.
Mohamad Ali Ahmadi, deputy governor of Ghazni province, said that Polish soldiers were attending a morning meeting in the Rawza district of Ghazni city, about 77 miles southwest of the capital, Kabul. One of their vehicles was destroyed by a roadside bomb, he said.
AP Television News footage from the scene showed wreckage of what seemed to be a U.S.-made Cougar armored terrain transport vehicle. The blast appeared to have broken the 19-ton vehicle into three large pieces, which lay scattered around a crater not far from some village homes.
Also in the east, Afghan police said they shot dead on Wednesday a would-be suicide bomber before he was able to attack a police station.
Youqib Khan, deputy police chief in Khost province, said policemen identified the would-be bomber in front of a bank next to the police station in Khost city and killed him before he could detonate his explosives vest. A search operation was under way because police fear the attacker, who was wearing a vest packed with explosives, might not have been working alone, he said.
Also Wednesday, an Afghan military spokesman said the country’s armed forces now number 180,000 troops, a significant step toward having enough troops to replace departing coalition forces.
Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammad Zahir Azimi said the troop numbers increased by more than 40,000 in 2011. This brings the military closer to the goal of having 195,000 Afghan troops by next October.
“Once we achieve that, then we will start discussing an agreement with international community to expand to 240,000 soldiers,” Mr. Azimi said. “And once we have reached that, the Afghan National Army will be able to take control of internal and external security in all of Afghanistan.”
Coalition forces, which started their drawdown this year, already are handing over responsibility for security to the Afghan army and police in selected regions. The process will run through 2014, when international forces are to end their combat role.
Mr. Azimi noted that troops are continuing to leave the Afghan military and that the attrition rate remains high, at about 2 percent a month. This makes it necessary to recruit and train large numbers of men just to keep up the army’s strength levels.View Entire Story
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