KABUL, (Reuters) – A suicide car bomb killed a U.S. service member, four Afghan civilians and wounded 19 others in an attack outside a U.S. military base and the German embassy in the Afghan capital on Saturday, officials and witnesses said.
A sewage tanker and several cars were burning at the scene and there were blood stains on the road as police loaded bodies and wounded onto the back of pick-up trucks and ambulances ferried wounded to nearby hospitals, a Reuters witness said.
One U.S. service member died, while six U.S. service members and a U.S. civilian were wounded, a U.S. forces statement said.
Four Afghan civilians were killed and 19 were wounded, the Interior Ministry said in a statement. An official at the Presidential Palace said earlier two civilians had been killed and 23 others were wounded.
Fourteen of the wounded were taken to the nearby Emergency Hospital and one died on the way, hospital officials said.
A middle-aged woman outside the hospital was beating her head and screaming that her son had died. She was almost hit by a car as she ran out into the road. Another man was crying and said his son had also been killed.
Six U.S. troops were wounded in the blast, a U.S. forces spokesman said.
The bomber struck on a road lined with high concrete blast barriers that runs between the German embassy and Camp Eggers, the headquarters of a U.S. unit that trains the Afghan army and police. The presidential palace and U.N. headquarters in Afghanistan lie immediately behind Camp Eggers.
A spokesman for the U.S. force based at Camp Eggers said three soldiers had been evacuated to a military hospital at Bagram, the main U.S. base north of Kabul. The perimeter of the base was not penetrated by the explosion, he said.
A spokesman for the German Foreign Ministry in Berlin said several embassy workers had been injured and there was considerable damage to the embassy building. “Germany is committed to its involvement in Afghanistan. We will not be put off providing help for the Afghan people by terror and shock,” German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in a statement.
Another suicide car bomber killed a civilian, and wounded three more and three policemen in the village of Chaparhar in the eastern province of Nangarhar, a provincial spokesman said.
Taliban militants, fighting to overthrow the Western-backed Afghan government and drive out foreign troops, have launched hundreds of suicide attacks in the last two years, but some 80 percent of the victims are Afghan civilians.
While Taliban influence has spread from their traditional heartlands in the south and east to areas closer to the capital, there were fewer attacks inside Kabul last year than in 2007 with many more police checkpoints throughout the city.
U.S. President-elect Barack Obama has pledged to make Afghanistan a foreign policy priority after he takes office on Tuesday and is expected to approve the doubling of U.S. troops in the country from the 30,000 at present.
In a separate incident, a U.S. military Chinook helicopter made a hard landing in Kunar province in east Afghanistan causing military casualties, a NATO-led spokesman said. It is the second U.S. helicopter hard-landing in Afghanistan in as many days. U.S. military and NATO-led spokesmen would not give more details and said the incident was under investigation. But a provincial official told Reuters four soldiers had been wounded and he could see smoke rising from the helicopter and passengers being evacuated from the aircraft.