- The Washington Times - Monday, March 19, 2007

KABUL, Afghanistan — A suicide bomber exploded his car next to a U.S. Embassy convoy yesterday, breaking months of relative calm in the Afghan capital with an attack that killed a teenage pedestrian and wounded five security guards on a notoriously dangerous stretch of road.

The first suicide attack in Kabul since December knocked one armored sport utility vehicle across Jalalabad Road, which sees more bombings and rocket attacks than any other area in Kabul. Two other SUVs also were damaged by the blast, which left the attack car a burning wreck.

A 15-year-old Afghan on the side of the road was killed, said Hasib Arian, the district police chief.

Five U.S. Embassy guards were injured, one seriously, said Col. Tom Collins, spokesman for NATO’s International Security Assistance Force. The U.S. ambassador, Ronald Neumann, was not in the convoy, embassy spokesman Joe Mellott said.

A Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousef Ahmadi, said in a phone call to the Associated Press that a Taliban militant from Khost province carried out the attack.

The explosion occurred about 2 miles from the embassy on the road leading to the U.S. military base at Bagram and farther on to the city of Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan.

Last month, a suicide bomber killed 23 persons outside the Bagram base during a visit by Vice President Dick Cheney. In September, a suicide bombing near the U.S. Embassy in Kabul killed 16 persons, including two U.S. soldiers.

The U.S. Embassy closed after yesterday’s attack and issued a warning to Americans in Kabul.

Also yesterday, Daniele Mastrogiacomo, a reporter for the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, was released by the Taliban after two weeks in captivity in Helmand province. Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi said securing his freedom “was not simple.”

The reporter is in good health, Mr. Prodi said in Rome.

In the southern province of Kandahar, a roadside bomb hit a police vehicle yesterday, killing Panjwayi district’s chief of the criminal division, police said. Also in Panjwayi, a suicide bomber attacked a police team working to eradicate opium poppies, damaging one vehicle but causing no injuries.

Afghanistan has seen a surge in violence over the past year as supporters of the former Taliban regime have stepped up attacks and increasingly adopted the deadly suicide and roadside bombings used by insurgents in Iraq.

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