- The Washington Times - Friday, November 14, 2008

KABUL, Afghanistan | A suicide car bomber attacked a U.S. military convoy passing through a crowded livestock market in eastern Afghanistan on Thursday, killing at least eight civilians and an American soldier and wounding 74 people, Afghan officials said.

The American patrol was hit in the Bati Kot district of Nangarhar province, said Lt. Cmdr. Walter Matthews, a U.S. military spokesman. The convoy was about 90 miles east of Kabul on the main road linking the capital to the Pakistan border at Torkham crossing.

Hours after the attack, the charred and twisted remains of cars still smoldered on the tree-lined street.

No one took responsibility, but the attack bore the hallmarks of those conducted by Taliban militants, who regularly use suicide attackers and car bombs.

Violence by the Taliban and other insurgent groups has spiked this year to record levels. Attacks are up 30 percent from 2007, military officials say. U.S. officials have said they will send additional troops to Afghanistan starting in January to reinforce about 65,000 U.S. and NATO troops already in the country.

Nearly 1,000 civilians are among the approximately 5,400 people killed in insurgency-related violence this year, according to a tally by the Associated Press of figures provided by Afghan and international officials. Most of those reported dead have been militants.

The bomber in Nangarhar struck the convoy near a crowded livestock market where people were trading sheep, cows, goats and other animals, said Ghafoor Khan, spokesman for the provincial police chief.

An Associated Press photographer said an American military vehicle, two civilian vehicles and two rickshaws were destroyed.

At least eight civilians were killed and 74 were wounded, Mr. Khan said. An American soldier was also killed, the U.S. military said.

The soldier’s death brought the number of U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan this year to at least 148, the highest annual number since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001. There were 111 military deaths in Afghanistan in all of 2007.

The number of civilians killed in Thursday’s attack reported by Mr. Khan and other Afghan officials was significantly lower than an earlier report by the U.S. military, which said 20 civilians had died. Later, the military declined to put a number on the dead civilians and referred calls to Afghan authorities.

Separately, the British Ministry of Defense reported that two of its soldiers serving with the NATO-led force in southern Afghanistan were killed Wednesday, when their vehicle was hit by an explosive device in Helmand province’s Garmser district.



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