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Sat October 29, 2011
American Troops Die In Afghan Attack
SCOTT SIMON, host: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. In Afghanistan today, a Taliban suicide bomber slammed a car packed with explosives into an armored bus carrying NATO troops in Kabul. At least 13 U.S. soldiers died in the attack. According to a Pentagon spokesman, the blast incinerated the vehicle and is the latest in a series of recent high-profile attacks in Afghanistan. For more on the incident, we're joined now by NPR's Ahmad Shafi in Kabul. Shafi, what more details can you give us about the attack?
AHMAD SHAFI: Well, what we know so far is that around 11:20 A.M. local time, a Toyota Corolla sedan packed with explosives rammed against a NATO bus carrying troops to the Kabul's military training center in the west of Kabul. And this happened in the outskirts of Kabul where the Afghan Parliament and also the American University of Afghanistan is located. We know that 13 U.S. soldiers were killed and several more were wounded, though NATO officials in Afghanistan haven't released details on the number of wounded.
Eyewitnesses tell us that several soldiers were wounded, then that the blast was so powerful that it knocked over the bus, and it was completely burned to a shell. When NATO soldiers arrived, they cordoned off the area. They did not even allow Afghan officials to get close to the scene. Then two helicopters arrived and they evacuated the casualties from the scene.
SIMON: And the Taliban has claimed responsibility?
SHAFI: Yes. The Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid sent a text to all the media in Kabul. They said that the target was the mentor of Afghan National Army, the foreign mentors. And they said that the car was carrying 700 kg., or about 1,500 pounds of explosives. But Afghan officials tell us that it must have been larger than that because it left a huge crater in the middle of the road, and there was a pile of smoke that was rising and there were, you know, debris all over the street. Windows were shattered in a wide a area where the blast happened.
SIMON: This is the latest in a series of recent attacks, including the assassination last month of the man who was leading the Afghan government's peace efforts. And of course the rocket attack on the U.S. Embassy. Does there seemed to be a change of approach?
SHAFI: Well, the Taliban for this year, they've really stepped up their attacks on two fronts: One, is their assassination campaign of high-profile government officials; and number two is to stage these spectacular attacks, as it happened on the U.S. Embassy a while back. And also on Thursday, they attacked the American Provincial Reconstruction team in Kandahar. So they're resorting to more spectacular attacks and high-profile assassination. And since the surge of American troops two years ago, the security has improved in the south and southwest of the country, but it looks like it's getting worse in the east of the country now, where the Haqqani network is, you know, much more active. And the Taliban are trying to avoid the confrontation on a battlefield and they're, you know, attacking more of like high-profile targets because it provides a much more coverage, and also it them much more - and you know, in the minds of many Afghans, that the security situation in Afghanistan, despite all the efforts, have not been improved.
SIMON: NPR's Ahmad Shafi, in Kabul. Thanks so much.
SHAFI: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.