Suicide Blast Kills 10 Afghans Outside NATO Base

A suicide bomber with explosives strapped to his chest blew himself up in a crowd of laborers waiting outside a U.S. military base in eastern Afghanistan on Tuesday, killing as many as 10 people.

Elsewhere, Afghan and NATO forces killed 12 militants in a five-hour gunbattle, while a Taliban ambush left nine police dead in the south, officials said.

The suicide bomber struck as hundreds of Afghan workers lined up to enter the base, known as Camp Salerno, outside the city of Khost, said provincial Gov. Jamal Arsalah.

Afghans gather around covered bodies from a suicide attack outside of Camp Salerno, in Afghanistan's eastern Khost province.

Arsalah, who saw the aftermath of the explosion, said 10 men were killed and 14 injured. However, the NATO-led force, which includes the U.S. base, said eight Afghans, including two policemen, were killed and five wounded. No U.S. or NATO troops were injured in the blast.

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. Arsalah said concrete barriers that protect the base helped prevent a heavier toll.

Suicide attacks have become more frequent as Taliban militants have intensified their insurgency against the 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 was the deadliest since Sept. 30, when an attacker killed 12 people outside the gates of the Interior Ministry in Kabul.

Khost is a former al-Qaeda stronghold on the mountainous Pakistani border. Afghan and Western officials say 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 the Taliban and al-Qaeda remain on its side of the border and complains that it gets too little recognition for deploying thousands of troops in the border region.

Underscoring the unease, Pakistan's Foreign Ministry said it summoned the U.S. and British ambassadors to protest the killing of a Pakistani soldier and wounding of two others by coalition forces near the Afghan border on Tuesday.

The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad said Ambassador Ryan Crocker met with a senior ministry official to discuss the incident, which followed a militant rocket attack on a coalition base across the border in Bermel, eastern Afghanistan.

"The ambassador expressed deep regret for the loss of life of a Pakistani soldier and the wounding of two others and extended his condolences to the families," an embassy statement said.

NATO also expressed regret.

Meanwhile, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, an Afghan warlord whose fighters operate in eastern Afghanistan's mountains alongside Taliban and al-Qaeda remnants, said the U.S. faces a Soviet-style humiliation in the country.

"Everyone knows that the American aggressors are faced with defeat in every part of the country," Hekmatyar said in the recording obtained by The Associated Press in Pakistan. "They are preparing to leave like the Soviet troops."

The 24-minute recording was the third from Hekmatyar to surface this month.

In southern Afghanistan, Afghan and NATO-led forces battled militants for nearly five hours, leaving 12 suspected Taliban dead and four wounded, Uruzgan's police chief Gen. Mohammad Qasem said. Two policemen were killed and 10 others wounded, he said.

Suspected militants also ambushed a border police patrol on the road from Kandahar to Uruzgan, killing nine policemen, Qasem said.

Source : AFP

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