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Suicide bomber kills 10 in Afghanistan

AP | January 23, 2007

KABUL, Afghanistan - A bomber blew himself up amid a crowd of workers outside a U.S. military base in eastern Afghanistan on Tuesday, killing as many as 10 and wounding more than a dozen others in the deadliest suicide attack in four months, officials said.

The attacker triggered explosives strapped to his chest as he stood among the workers who were lined up outside the base in the city of Khost, said Jamal Arsalah, the governor of Khost province.

Arsalah, who visited the scene shortly after the explosion, said 10 men were killed and 14 others injured. However, officials with the NATO-led force that includes the U.S. base said eight Afghans, including two policemen, were killed and five others wounded. It was not clear why the tallies differed.

Maj. Matt Hackathorn, a U.S. military spokesman, said there was no immediate word of any U.S. military casualties.

The governor said the Afghan casualties were among hundreds of workers waiting to enter the base, known as Camp Salerno, through its main gate.

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force said the attacker detonated an explosives-filled vest when he reached the point where people entering the base are searched.

An Associated Press Television News cameraman saw the bodies of five men, drenched in blood, in the city's military hospital. Relatives of the dead and injured mobbed the hospital seeking news of their loved ones.

Suicide attacks have become much more frequent as Taliban militants have intensified their insurgency against Afghan government and foreign troops backing them. According to U.S. military figures, there were 139 suicide attacks during 2006, up from 27 in 2005.

Tuesday's attack was the deadliest since Sept. 30, when a suicide bomber killed 12 people outside the gates of the Interior Ministry in Kabul.

Khost, south of the capital, is a former al-Qaida stronghold on the mountainous Pakistani border that has been a focus of militant activity. Camp Salerno is the U.S. military's main base in the east and includes an airfield.

Afghan and Western officials say that insurgents use the tribal areas of neighboring Pakistan as sanctuaries from where they organize and launch operations in Afghanistan.

However, Pakistan argues that only remnants of Taliban and al-Qaida remain on its side of the border and complain that it gets too little recognition for deploying thousands of troops in the border region. On Monday, a suicide car bomber killed four Pakistani soldiers in North Waziristan, across the frontier from Khost.

Senior U.S. officials have warned that fighting in Afghanistan is likely to surge again this spring, as warmer weather clears snow from mountain passes and militants try to weaken the grip of President Hamid Karzai's U.S.-backed government.


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