- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 27, 2010

KABUL, Afghanistan | A suicide car bomber struck a barrier outside a U.S. base in Kabul Tuesday, wounding six Afghans and eight American troops hours after gunmen killed four policemen in southern Afghanistan.

The car bombing was the latest attack on Kabul, coming just over a week after a team of Taliban gunmen and suicide bombers staged an assault that paralyzed the city and left 12 people dead. The violence has underscored fears that militants would try to stage attacks ahead of a key international conference on Afghanistan to be held Thursday in London.

The bomber detonated a minivan packed with explosives near Camp Phoenix, an American base inside Kabul, wounding at least six Afghan civilians, said Jamil Jumbish, the head of Afghanistan’s criminal investigation unit.

The Taliban took responsibility for the attack and said it was targeting an international military convoy, according to a text message to the Associated Press from a phone number commonly used by the militant group.

NATO forces confirmed a car bomb struck outside the main gate of Camp Phoenix, saying it was aimed at a civilian convoy that was entering the controlled checkpoint.

Eight American service members suffered minor injuries, according to a statement.

Four Afghan policemen were killed overnight at a checkpoint near the Information and Cultural Affairs Ministry’s directorate in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province.

In eastern Kunar province, a NATO air strike killed several suspected insurgents who were maneuvering into fighting position in an area previously used to stage attacks on international forces, the coalition said. Spokeswoman Maj. Virginia McCabe said between five and 10 militants were killed.

President Hamid Karzai said Tuesday that the London conference offers a major opportunity for his government to present its plans for reconciliation in an effort to drain the insurgency of support.

Mr. Karzai spoke Tuesday in Turkey after a meeting of nations that seek to help Afghanistan emerge from instability with aid, trade, training and political support. Delegates included British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Tuesday that her country plans to increase its troop contingent in Afghanistan by up to 850 and focus more strongly on training local security forces. Germany currently has nearly 4,300 soldiers in northern Afghanistan.

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