Afghan suicide attack kills 2, wounds 60

DEB RIECHMANN Associated Press Published:

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- A Taliban suicide bomber detonated a truck full of explosives Friday in eastern Afghanistan, killing two civilians and wounding more than 60 people, including Afghan and NATO troops, officials said.

Several government offices and a prison were damaged or destroyed in the early morning explosion in Maidan Shahr, the capital of Wardak province, said provincial spokesman Shahidullah Shahid.

The blast occurred in an area that is home to the provincial governor's office, police headquarters, a prison and a coordination center used by international and Afghan security forces.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the bombing, saying in a statement to media that it was in response to the recent execution of four Taliban detainees at the Afghan government's main detention center in Kabul.

The men were convicted and sentenced to death in Afghan courts for a variety of crimes, including murder, rape, kidnapping, robbery and cruelty against children. The Taliban condemned the hangings, saying the detainees were prisoners of war who were unjustly jailed.

Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqi said Afghan security troops and prisoners were among the wounded in the Wardak blast. Three prisoners tried to escape from the damaged prison, but were apprehended, he said.

"Unfortunately, it was a very bad explosion and many of our countrymen were injured," he told reporters at a news conference in Kabul. "There was a lot of damage to infrastructure. The buildings that were around the blast were destroyed."

Sediqi said the Afghan government was sending a delegation, including the head of Afghan prisons, to Wardak to investigate the attack.

U.S. Army Maj. Adam Wojack, a spokesman for the international military coalition, said a half-dozen NATO soldiers received minor injuries in the explosion.

The Taliban said the attack involved two suicide bombers and claimed it killed tens of Afghan and international troops. The Taliban often exaggerate the number of casualties caused in their attacks.

Afghan and international forces have been working to root out insurgents in Wardak province to keep them from moving north into the Afghan capital. The international forces are scheduled to turn over security responsibility to local troops by the end of 2014.

Separately, Sediqi said that police in Kabul had arrested two men with four explosive vests. He said the two, described as experts in making suicide vests, were planning to conduct an attack in Kabul on Saturday, which is the holy day of Ashoura in Afghanistan.

Last year on Ashoura, a suicide bomber on foot struck worshippers at a Shiite shrine in Kabul, killing at least 80 people. It was the country's first major sectarian attack since the fall of the Taliban regime.

Ashoura, which is observed in the Muslim world either on Saturday or Sunday, commemorates the 7th century death of Imam Hussein, the Prophet Muhammad's grandson.