'Five troops killed' in Kabul blast

Thirteen people killed when a suicide bomber rammed a military convoy in Afghanistan included five coalition troops and eight civilian contractors, Nato has said.

Thirteen people killed when a suicide bomber rammed a military convoy in Afghanistan included five coalition troops and eight civilian contractors, Nato has said.

The organisation had initially reported that all 13 killed in the Kabul attack were service members. But after further identification, it confirmed that eight were civilians working for the coalition.

A US official had said all the troops killed were Americans, but Canadian defence spokesman Lt Col Christian Lemay told reporters that a Canadian soldier was among those killed.

The Taliban suicide bomber hit an armoured Nato vehicle in the deadliest attack on coalition forces in Kabul since the war began.

The explosion, which occurred as the convoy was passing the American University, sparked a fireball and littered the street with shrapnel. Heavy black smoke poured from burning wreckage at the site.

The armoured personnel carrier, known as a Rhino, was sandwiched between of a convoy of mine-resistant military vehicles travelling on a four-lane highway frequently used by Nato forces in a south-western section of the city.

It was reported that 12 of the 13 convoy victims were American, with the other Nato fatality thought to have been a Canadian serviceman. A total of 17 people died in the suicide bombing, with the Afghan ministry of interior saying three Afghan civilians and one policeman were killed.

Eight other Afghans, including two children, were wounded, said Kabir Amiri, head of Kabul hospitals.

The attack, triggered when a vehicle was rammed into the armoured bus, is a major setback for the alliance as it begins to draw down combat troops.

Underscoring the difficulties ahead, the assault occurred on the same day that top Nato and Afghan officials were meeting elsewhere in Kabul to discuss the second phase of shifting security responsibilities to Afghan forces in all or part of 17 of the country’s 34 provinces.

It also was a blow to efforts by the US and Afghan president Hamid Karzai to forge peace with the Taliban as Nato plans to withdraw all its combat troops from the country by the end of 2014, with support for the costly war reaching new lows in the West.

Kabul has increasingly been targeted by attacks in recent years, with many blamed on the Haqqani network, an al Qaida and Taliban-linked movement that operates out of Pakistan. But Nato already has shifted security responsibilities for the capital to the Afghans and foreign forces have little presence on the streets.

The Taliban also claimed responsibility for another suicide bombing outside a government intelligence office in the north-west province of Kunar in which only the bomber was killed. In all, there were three attacks against Nato and Afghan forces, killing at least 21 people.

Elsewhere, a man wearing an Afghan military uniform opened fire on a joint Nato-Afghan base, killing three Australian service members in Uruzgan province, an area in the restive south that is traditionally viewed as the Taliban’s stronghold, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Afghan defence ministry spokesman Mohammad Zahir Azimi said officials were investigating whether the shooter, who was killed in the incident, was a member of the Afghan army or a militant wearing an army uniform.

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