- The Washington Times - Monday, March 15, 2010

KABUL, Afghanistan — A rocket attack on the largest U.S. military hub in Afghanistan killed one person Monday, NATO said, while Afghan authorities in the country’s east prevented three would-be suicide bombers from attacking a security post.

The rocket attack targeted the sprawling Bagram Air Field, north of the capital, Kabul. A NATO spokesman would not say whether the victim was a service member or a civilian.

Abdullah Adil, the police chief in the Bagram district of Parwan province, said one rocket was fired onto the grounds of the base at about 4 a.m. A Taliban spokesman told the Associated Press that two rockets were fired on the base.

Bagram is home to some 24,000 military personnel and civilian contractors supporting the war against the Taliban insurgency. While well protected and located in a relatively quiet area, the more than 5,000-acre base is still susceptible to rocket and mortar attacks. Last year, insurgents launched more than a dozen attacks on Bagram, killing at least four people.

The main airfield is being expanded to accommodate some of the 30,000 new American troops that President Obama has ordered to Afghanistan to try to turn the tide of the war.

NATO and Afghan forces last month launched the largest combined offensive against the Taliban since the hard-line Islamists were driven from power in 2001. The push secured the one-time Taliban stronghold and opium-producing center of Marjah in the southern province of Helmand.

One U.S. Marine was killed in a road accident in Marjah on Sunday, an officer said. The death was not combat-related. So far, 15 NATO personnel have been killed in action in the Marjah operation.

The next major offensive is planned for later this year in neighboring Kandahar province, where the insurgents retain a strong presence. On Saturday, the Taliban detonated several bombs in Kandahar city, killing 35 people in what the militants said was a “warning” that they are ready to fight.

Mourners gathered Monday at a Kandahar mosque for memorial services for the bombing victims, gathering around photos of the dead and chanting prayers. Among the dead were 10 people attending a wedding being held in a hall near a police station.

In eastern Afghanistan, police said Afghan security forces killed three suicide bombers Monday morning in Paktika province before they could launch an attack on security posts in Barmal district.

Six suspected Taliban also died Monday after their vehicle hit a roadside bomb in the Shah Wali Kot district in Kandahahr province, a statement from the provincial government said. Documents found in the car’s wreckage indicated the people were studying bomb-making, the statement said.

Separately in Ghazni province, Afghan police said three civilians were killed and three others were wounded when their vehicle hit a mine while they were moving household goods.

Also in eastern Afghanistan, fire from insurgents killed an Afghan child Monday outside a NATO base in Kunar province, the international coalition said. Two Afghan women and two other children also were wounded when several rounds struck a civilian house near the base.

The U.S. military also confirmed that an unmanned Predator drone aircraft crashed in southern Afghanistan. The crash late Sunday night was not caused by enemy fire, and the site was secured quickly, an U.S. Air Force release said. The Air Force initially said the drone crashed on takeoff but later revised its statement to say it went down later in its mission.

Unmanned drones have become crucial tools for the U.S. military in Afghanistan and Iraq, both for their reconnaissance value and their ability to fire missiles at enemy positions. The CIA runs a separate covert program that targets al Qaeda and Taliban leaders across the border in Pakistan.

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