Suicide attack kills 13 Afghan children

Taliban claim responsibility for bombing in Khost province

December 29, 2008|By New York Times News Service

KABUL, Afghanistan -

A suicide bomber detonated a bomb in a black sport utility vehicle outside a local government compound in Khost province yesterday, killing at least 16 people, including 13 schoolchildren, and wounding 53, local government officials and coalition forces said.

The bombing, near the border with Pakistan, occurred next to a school, and many children were among the wounded.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

Haji Dawlatkhan Quyomi, the chief of Ismail Khil, the district in which the bombing occurred, said the death toll could rise.

Coalition forces provided a video showing about 15 children walking on the street as they were engulfed by a sudden cloud of fire.

Mark Larter, a spokesman for the coalition forces, said the death toll also was figured from the reports of troops at the scene.

Two police officers were among the dead.

The number of suicide bombings in Afghanistan has fallen significantly since 2006, mainly because of better intelligence information and a proliferation of security checkpoints.

But in Khost province, which borders the tribal area of Pakistan's North Waziristan, a wave of violence continues to overwhelm security officials.

As the number of bombings has declined, suicide attacks around the country have become larger and more technically sophisticated, including yesterday's attack, in which a huge fireball towered over the compound's security blockade.

In November 2007 in Baghlan province north of Kabul, a giant suicide bomb laced with ball bearings killed more than 70 people, including six members of parliament, and wounded more than 100, mostly children.

Yesterday's blast west of the city of Khost occurred as local leaders and tribal elders gathered inside the government building to discuss security and elections, said Tahir Kahn Sabari, the deputy governor of Khost province.

At the nearby school, the bomb rattled students, ages 6 to 12, who were receiving certificates on the last day of the school year.

President Hamid Karzai condemned the attack, saying that those responsible "are not aware of the Islamic teachings which outlaw the killing of innocent people."

The attack comes a day after police acted on intelligence to locate a suicide car bomber as he tried to enter the city of Kandahar, said Matiullah Qait, the provincial chief.

Police vehicles chased the driver, and when he reached a security checkpoint west of the city, he detonated his explosives, killing three police officers and one civilian.

On Saturday, a roadside bomb killed two Canadian soldiers and two Afghans working alongside them in a dangerous region of southern Afghanistan, Canada's military said yesterday, according to the Associated Press.

Four other Canadian soldiers and one Afghan interpreter were wounded in the blast.

On Saturday night, a missile hit Kabul, killing three teenage sisters, their family and the police said.

The rocket probably was fired from west of the capital near Wardak province, where militants have developed a stronghold since last year.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.

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