- Associated Press - Monday, December 17, 2012

 

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A car bomb outside a compound housing a U.S. military contractor in the Afghan capital killed at least two Afghan workers and wounded more than a dozen other people, company representatives and police said.

In another part of the country, a landmine left over from the time of the Soviet invasion killed nine young girls, police said.

The blast on the outskirts of Kabul sent a plume of smoke up in the air and shook windows more than a mile away in the city center.

The security officer for Contrack, a McLean, Va.-based company that builds facilities for military bases, said a suicide attacker drove a vehicle packed with explosives up to the exterior wall of the compound and detonated the bomb. Afghan police could not immediately confirm whether it was a suicide attack or a remotely detonated bomb laced in a parked vehicle.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack, saying in an email to reporters that it was a suicide car bomber who targeted the compound because it was a company working with the government.

Two of the company’s Afghan employees were killed and at least 15 were wounded, said deputy Interior Ministry spokesman Najibullah Danish. He did not have any information about any of the foreign employees. Contrack did not respond to calls or emails asking for comment.

Contrack security officer Baryalai, who like many Afghans only goes by one name, said at the site that injured employees included Americans, Afghans and South Africans. An American official of the company was seriously wounded, he said.

An Associated Press reporter at the scene saw large sections of exterior wall blown apart and a collapsed roof on a building inside. Twisted metal from shipping containers that had been ripped open by the explosion littered the ground. A light snow was falling all morning and was already starting to cover the debris as investigators surveyed the site. The wall appeared to have been made of mud brick, which is surprising in a city in which most foreign contractors live in compounds reinforced by concrete blast walls.

Baryalai said an arm of Contrack was building barracks and other facilities for the Afghan army. Contrack’s projects in Afghanistan also include fuel storage, airfield construction and tanker facilities for U.S. military bases, according to its website.

A worker coming out of the building said that he saw at least 30 people wounded.

“There was massive destruction inside … I was sitting behind my computer when it happened. I was not hurt, but I saw many of my colleagues were injured,” Bashir Farhang said.

Jalalabad Road, where the explosion occurred, is one of the main arteries into the city. It is flanked by a number of foreign companies and organizations, along with foreign military bases.

The Kabul bombing came just hours after an exploding landmine killed nine young girls as they were gathering firewood outside their village in the east of the country.

The U.N. Mine Action Service said the girls appeared to have walked into an old minefield from the 1990s, when Afghan resistance fighters were battling occupying Soviet troops.

“It was a British-made anti-tank mine,” said Abigail Hartley, the manager of the U.N. mine program. She said there were not enough pieces of the exploded mine to determine its exact make, but that two MK 7 British mines were found nearby, so they assumed it was a similar mine that exploded.

The girls, who died ranged in age from 9 to 13 years old, all came from different families in Dawlatzai village, said Mohammad Seddiq, the government administrator of Nangarhar province’s Chaperhar district, which includes the village. Two more girls were seriously wounded and are in critical condition at a hospital, Mr. Seddiq said.

Initial reports said 10 girls died from the explosion, but Mr. Seddiq said one of the girls whom they had believed dead later showed up in the village.

Afghanistan remains one of the most heavily landmined countries in the world, despite years of clearing operations. Many mines have been left in rural areas from the 1990s and are only discovered when they are triggered accidentally.

Associated Press writer Amir Shah contributed to this report from Kabul.