A suicide bomber killed at least seven people and wounded eight Thursday in an attack at Kandahar international airport in war-torn southern Afghanistan, officials said.
Women and children were among the casualties and pools of blood and body parts were scattered around the burned-out wreckage of six vehicles at the scene of the attack, an AFP reporter said.
Witnesses said two of the vehicles belonged to NATO special forces, but a spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force said there were no ISAF casualties and he had no information that military vehicles were involved.
“Seven civilians, including two children, were killed in today’s suicide attack. Eight civilians including two children and one woman, have been injured in the blast,” provincial spokesman Zalmay Ayobi told AFP.
Witnesses said the bomber tried to ram his Toyota sedan into ISAF cars as they were leaving the first entry point to the vast airport complex, which has both military and civilian sections.
The Taliban, the militia leading a 10-year insurgency against the Afghan government and tens of thousands of NATO troops, claimed responsibility.
Spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi told AFP the target was “the bullet-proof vehicles of foreign forces”.
The army commander for southern Afghanistan, General Hamid Wardak, said the attack was “on foreign special forces at the entrance gate of Kandahar international airport”.
The Taliban, toppled in late 2001 in a US-led invasion, are fighting national troops and a US-led foreign force of some 130,000 troops deployed to the impoverished and war-ravaged country.
The Islamist hardliners announced earlier this month that they planned to set up a political office in Qatar, widely seen as a move towards peace negotiations with Washington and its Western allies.
They said this did not mean they had surrendered in the war against coalition forces but that they would use their political wing alongside the military to achieve their aims.
A key US demand for any progress in negotiations is that the Taliban abandon violence.
Kandahar is the spiritual capital of the Taliban and southern Afghanistan is a key battleground that continues to see persistent violence despite a surge of US troops in 2010 and 2011.
In neighbouring Helmand province on Wednesday, two attacks just hours apart killed 16 people and wounded more than 20 others.
A suicide bomber on a motorcycle killed 10 civilians and two policemen in the first attack at a bazaar, while an intelligence official was among the dead in a second blast caused by a mine, which was claimed by the Taliban.
General John Allen, commander of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force, said that those attacks showed that “(Taliban leader) Mullah Omar has lost all control over Taliban insurgents”.
“Otherwise he would immediately denounce these attacks and order his ‘forces’ to stop attacking innocent Afghan civilians,” Allen said.
“This latest act of violence further confirms that the insurgency has declared outright war on the people of Afghanistan and will stop at nothing to continue to use terrorism and intimidation to advance their own malign and selfish ends.”
The United Nations said the number of civilians killed in violence in Afghanistan rose by 15 percent in the first six months of last year to 1,462, with insurgents blamed for 80 percent of the killings.