Bomb kills 8 soldiers in Afghanistan


KABUL, Afghanistan -- A suicide bomber on a motorbike drove into a convoy of Afghan National Army soldiers boarding minibuses outside their training base on the edge of Kabul yesterday, killing nine people and wounding 28, the Afghan Defense Ministry's spokesman said.

The dead were eight military personnel and a civilian bus driver, said the spokesman, Gen. Zaher Azimi. The attacker also died.

The bombing was the first major incident of violence since Afghanistan's parliamentary elections 10 days ago and the first suicide attack in Kabul in months. It shattered the short period of calm that reigned during elections and served as a reminder that al-Qaida and its Taliban allies remain a deadly threat.

Intelligence officials had warned recently that suspected al-Qaida suicide bombers had entered the Afghan capital and the southern part of the country and intended to set off explosions.

The attack in Kabul occurred at 4.30 p.m. local time as people were leaving work and crowds were gathering to board buses. The Kabul military training base lies on one of the busiest roads leading into the capital from the eastern town of Jalalabad and from Pakistan.

A Taliban spokesman, Abdul Latif Hakimi, claimed responsibility for the attack in a phone call to one of the local language services of BBC radio.

Two other attacks were reported in eastern Afghanistan. A United Nations car was hit in a roadside explosion in eastern Afghanistan, critically wounding an engineer from Bangladesh; two policemen and a civilian were killed in another explosion. Both attacks were the work of Taliban insurgents, local officials said.

Suicide attacks are not common in Afghanistan, but police and intelligence officials have warned of threats by al-Qaida to cause spectacular damage in major cities during the election period.

In June, a bomber blew himself up in a mosque in the southern town of Kandahar, killing 19 and raising fears that a campaign was beginning to disrupt elections. In May, a bomber blew himself in an Internet cafe in downtown Kabul, killing two people.

The latest attack came as Afghanistan's Interior minister, Ahmed Ali Jalali, resigned after nearly three years in the job. Jalali cleared his desk yesterday, handing over his duties temporarily to the deputy minister for security, Zarar Ahmed Muqbal.

Jalali's departure comes at an uncertain time, as insurgents have escalated violence this year and American military casualties have run the highest of any year since military operations began in Afghanistan in 2001.

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