- The Washington Times - Friday, September 8, 2006

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A suicide car bomber struck a convoy of U.S. military vehicles today in downtown Kabul, killing at least 16 persons, including two American soldiers, and wounding 29 others. It was the Afghan capital’s deadliest suicide attack since the Taliban’s 2001 ouster.

The blast near the U.S. Embassy came as NATO chiefs appealed for member nations to send reinforcements to combat resurgent Taliban militants fanning the deadliest violence in five years. A top British general said the fighting in volatile southern Afghanistan was now more ferocious than in Iraq.

The bomb blew pieces of an American Humvee and U.S. uniforms into trees, which were set ablaze by the explosion. The blast shattered windows throughout downtown, and a cloud of brown smoke climbed hundreds of feet into the sky.

The bombing came three days ahead of the fifth anniversary of the September 11 attacks and as Afghans remembered Ahmad Shah Masood, the fabled Northern Alliance commander who fought Soviet forces and the Taliban and was assassinated by suspected al Qaeda operatives posing as journalists on Sept. 9, 2001.

The Kabul blast went off about 50 yards from the landmark Masood Square, which leads to the main gate of the heavily fortified U.S. Embassy compound. It dug a 6-foot-wide crater and left body parts, Muslim prayer caps, floppy khaki-colored military hats and shoes scattered on the ground.

President Hamid Karzai condemned the attack, saying, “Today’s heinous act of terrorism is against the values of Islam and humanity.”

A witness, Najibullah Faizi, said he saw a blue Toyota Corolla driven by a young, heavyset man speed past another car on the inside lane before ramming one of two U.S. Humvees in a convoy.

Afghanistan is facing its deadliest spate of violence since U.S.-led forces toppled the hard-line Taliban regime for hosting Osama bin Laden. Hundreds on both sides have been killed each month this year.

Some 20,000 NATO soldiers and a similar number of U.S. forces are in Afghanistan trying to crush an emboldened Taliban insurgency. The heaviest fighting takes place across vast desert plains in southern Helmand and Kandahar provinces, also center of the country’s massive opium trade.

“The fighting is extraordinarily intense. The intensity and ferocity of the fighting is far greater than in Iraq on a daily basis,” Brig. Ed Butler,[NOTE]cq[NOTE] the commander of British Forces in Afghanistan, told British ITV news.

He echoed NATO commander Gen. James L. Jones’ call Thursday for more troops. Gen. Jones, who said the next few weeks would be decisive in the fight against militants, was expected to press officials from the 26 NATO member states for more soldiers and air support at talks being held in Poland over the weekend.

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