May 19, 2010 in Nation/World

Attack on air base follows Kabul hit

Taliban promised spring offensive
Robert H. Reid And Amir Shah Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

Smoke billows up from the site of a one-time royal palace soon after a suicide attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Tuesday. The blast killed 18 people and injured 47.
(Full-size photo)

KABUL, Afghanistan – Insurgents launched a brazen pre-dawn assault today against the giant U.S.-run Bagram Air Field one day after a suicide bomber struck a U.S. convoy in the capital of Kabul, killing 18 people. The Kabul dead included five American troops and a Canadian and was the deadliest attack on NATO in the Afghan capital in eight months.

The back-to-back attacks appeared part of a Taliban offensive that the insurgents announced earlier this month – even as the U.S. and its partners prepare for a major operation to restore order in the turbulent south. The insurgent attacks against both the capital and a major American military installation show the militants are prepared to strike at the heart of the American-led mission.

A U.S. statement said seven insurgents had been killed so far during the “ongoing attack” on Bagram, which included rockets, small arms and grenades. Five service members have been wounded, the statement said without specifying whether they were Americans.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack on Bagram, 30 miles north of Kabul. Taliban spokesman Zabaiullah Mujahid said 20 suicide attackers carried out the attack.

The Bagram assault followed the deadliest day of the year for U.S. forces in Afghanistan with seven Americans dead – including two who died in separate attacks in the south. The dead in the Kabul attack included Canadian Col. Geoff Parker, 42, the highest-ranking member of the Canadian Forces to die in Afghanistan since the Canadian mission began in 2002, the country’s military said.

Twelve Afghan civilians also died in the Tuesday blast – many of them on a public bus in rush-hour traffic along a major thoroughfare that runs by the ruins of a one-time royal palace and government ministries. At least 47 people were wounded, the Interior Ministry said.

The blast was the first major attack in the Afghan capital since February and followed a Taliban announcement of a spring offensive even as the U.S. gears up for a major push to restore order in the turbulent south.

The Taliban also claimed responsibility for the Kabul blast.

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