- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 29, 2004

KABUL, Afghanistan — A car bomb exploded outside the office of a U.S. security contractor in the Afghan capital yesterday, killing at least seven persons, including two Americans, and wounding several others, officials said.

Hours earlier, a blast wrecked a religious school in southeastern Afghanistan, reportedly killing at least eight children and one adult and underlining the country’s fragile security as it moves toward its first post-Taliban election in October.

Security officials have issued several warnings in recent weeks about possible car bombings and suicide attacks in the capital. NATO forces patrolling Kabul have warned that anti-government militants, including members of the ousted Taliban, could try to mount spectacular attacks in a bid to disrupt the Oct. 9 presidential election.

The Kabul explosion hit the office of Dyncorp Inc., an American firm that provides security for President Hamid Karzai and works for the U.S. government in Iraq, said Nick Downie of the Afghanistan Non-governmental Organization Security Office.

“The explosion … killed at least seven people,” according to a statement by Mr. Karzai’s office. “Two Americans, three Nepalese and two Afghan nationals, including a child, have been confirmed dead.”

Mr. Karzai and U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad expressed shock at the bombing.

An American Embassy statement said that the contractor also was involved in a project to train Afghan police. The company is believed to employ Nepalese and Americans and reportedly is involved in anti-drug efforts.

“This cowardly attack will not deter U.S. participation in the ongoing effort to help Afghanistan stand on its own feet,” Mr. Khalilzad said.

Mr. Downie said that he and others had pulled five or six seriously injured persons — including apparent Westerners — from the burning building.

“Some were obviously Dyncorp staff,” said Mr. Downie, a former British soldier who advises relief groups on security.

Dyncorp Inc. is a division of Computer Sciences Corp. based in El Segundo, Calif. CSC spokesman Mike Dickerson said that the company’s operations in Afghanistan “are continuing.”

The Dyncorp building burned fiercely after the explosion, which blew out the windows of surrounding houses. Residents said that a boy living in a neighboring house and a cobbler in a nearby stall were killed, and as many as eight other persons were wounded.

On Saturday night, an explosion ripped through the Mullah Khel religious school near Zormat, 80 miles south of Kabul in Paktia province. Eight children between the ages of 7 and 15 were killed, and 15 other persons were injured, three of them critically, said Paktia Gov. Asadullah Wafa.

But U.S. Master Sgt. Ann Bennett said that nine children and one adult were killed, and several other people were wounded. The differing death tolls could not immediately be explained.

The U.S. military, which sent medics to help after the blast, said that the cause was not clear.

Mr. Wafa said that a bomb was planted on a second-floor balcony by “puppets listening to their bosses outside the country.”

He did not elaborate, but his remark appeared aimed at neighboring Pakistan, which many Afghans accuse of not doing enough to prevent Taliban militants from mounting cross-border attacks.

The school received funding from an international aid group, Mr. Wafa said, which could have made it a target for Taliban-led militants. The school also was used to register voters for the elections — a process that Taliban militants vowed to disrupt.

A dozen election workers and more than 20 Afghans carrying voter-identification cards have been killed in attacks blamed largely on the Taliban.

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