A suicide car bomber attacked a NATO convoy in Kabul Saturday killing 13 NATO troops from the international security force or ISAF (according to ISAF) and at least 4 (four) Afghans. At least eight others were wounded in the attack. Twelve of the dead NATO troops are reported to be U.S. service members. Canadian news outlets say one of the service members was from Canada.
The suicide car bomb went off next to an armored bus carrying NATO forces in Kabul, turning the heavily armed vehicle on its side and engulfing it in flames. The attack came before noon on a wide busy road near the national museum and not far from the parliament and a NATO base. Ambulances and NATO personnel and helicopters rushed to the scene to attend to the living and the dead.
A Pentagon spokesman, Army Lt. Col. Jim Gregory, confirmed all 13 servicemembers killed were Americans. "We did lose 13 Americans today," he said.
He said details about the attack are still emerging, as the Pentagon coordinates efforts with NATO's International Security Assistance Force, known as "ISAF."
"We're working very closely with ISAF, and at this time we don't have any additional details to offer," he said.
Eyewitness accounts say the explosion was massive, sending thick black smoke and shrapnel into the sky. In addition to the dead, several other people were wounded.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. Car bombings are rare in the Afghan capital, although there have been bold attacks in recent months, including a June assault on the Intercontinental Hotel, and attacks on the British Council in August and the U.S. Embassy and NATO headquarters a few weeks later.
The last car bomb in Kabul was in May, 2010 on the same road as Saturday’s attack. In that incident, 18 people were killed including 5 Americans and one Canadian soldier.
The incident comes days before a conference in Istanbul where Afghan President Hamid Karzai is expected to announce the next phase of security transition, with Afghan forces taking security responsibility from NATO troops in certain areas of the country.
The process began in July with the transfer of seven cities and provinces to Afghan control, part of a gradual process to have Afghan forces in charge of the whole country by the end of 2014.
There were two other attacks on government-related targets around Afghanistan Saturday. In the eastern city of Asadabad a female suicide bomber wounded several Afghans before being killed outside government offices and in the south, an Afghan in an army uniform turned his gun on two international soldiers killing them both.