Afghan bomb kills at least 10 as violence surges
KABUL(AP): A suicide bomber on a motorcycle killed at least 10 people, including three American soldiers, at a park in a relatively peaceful area of northern Afghanistan Wednesday, part of an increase in violence at the start of the spring fighting season.
Militants are targeting Afghan and NATO security forces as they fight to assert their power and undermine U.S. efforts to try to build up the Afghan military, who will take the lead in combat responsibility over the next couple of years.
Shortly before noon, the bomber detonated his explosives at the gate of the park in Maimanah, the capital of Faryab province, police spokesman Lal Mohammad Ahmad Zai said. His target was unclear, but Zai said four of the 10 killed were Afghan police officers. At least 20 people were wounded, officials said.
In Kabul, NATO said three of its service members were killed in a bombing Wednesday in northern Afghanistan. It provided no other details about the attack or the nationalities of the three.
A senior U.S. defense official, however, confirmed that three were American troops killed in the Faryab bombing. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.
Norway and Germany, which commands alliance operations in northern Afghanistan, said none of their troops were involved. Troops of other nationalities also serve in the area – most of them at a Norwegian base.
Associated Press video footage of the scene of the attack shows what appear to be dead Afghan civilians, police and foreign troops. Body parts are strewn around the gate and on the ground, which is spattered with blood.
Faryab is relatively calm but is a stronghold of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, an Al-Qaeda affiliated group that has been most active in Afghanistan’s northern provinces.
The IMU was formed in 1991, originally aiming to set up an Islamic state in Uzbekistan, which borders Afghanistan. Later it expanded its goal to seeking an Islamic state across Central Asia.
On March 26, a joint Afghan and coalition force in Faryab killed the group’s leader in Afghanistan, Makhdum Nusrat. The coalition said Nusrat had been leading attacks against Afghan and coalition troops in the north for the past eight months and was plotting the assassination of a member of parliament in Kabul.
Militants also have stepped up their attacks against international and Afghan troops nationwide in recent weeks.
Nine Afghan policemen were killed and 11 were abducted across the nation in the past three days.
Fighting in Afghanistan usually wanes during the winter months as Taliban fighters take a break because of winter weather, only to surge in spring.
So far this year, 97 NATO service members have been killed in Afghanistan, 55 Americans.