Delegates gathering for talks on pact with U.S.
KABUL, Afghanistan – A suicide bomber detonated a Toyota sedan Saturday next to an Afghan army vehicle protecting the site of an upcoming national assembly expected to consider a security pact with the United States. At least six people were killed and 22 wounded.
The explosion tore into the armored military vehicle on a street outside a university campus, where a five-day gathering of prominent Afghans, known as a loya jirga, is to open Thursday. The assailant was killed in addition to six Afghan civilians and security force members, said Sediq Sediqi, a spokesman for the Afghan Interior Ministry.
Several shops and vehicles were mangled by the explosion, the first bombing in the capital since Oct. 18. The Taliban later claimed responsibility for the bombing.
President Hamid Karzai has asked the loya jirga to provide an advisory vote on a bilateral security agreement with the United States that would define the partnership between the countries after international combat troops depart Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
The 3:15 p.m. explosion was an ominous prelude to the loya jirga, to be held in a tent and meeting rooms at Kabul Polytechnic University on the west side of the city. Some of the roughly 2,700 Afghan delegates from across the country have already begun arriving in the capital for registration Wednesday.
The blast came hours after Karzai announced that a draft of the agreement had been completed but “differences” remain on several issues that still must be cleared up by U.S. and Afghan negotiators.
The gathering will focus on key issues, including legal jurisdiction for remaining U.S. troops accused of crimes, said Najib Amin, the loya jirga deputy secretary.
The U.S. has insisted that its troops be subject to the American, not Afghan, legal system.
Failure by the U.S. and Afghanistan to agree on a security deal would result in no U.S. military trainers remaining in Afghanistan after 2014.