Afghanistan suicide attack

U.S. soldiers and Afghan security forces search the site of a suicide bombing in Kabul. (Rahmat Gul / Associated Press / February 10, 2014)

KABUL, Afghanistan -- Two civilians working for the U.S.-led military coalition in Afghanistan were killed Monday in a suicide car bomb attack on a NATO convoy in eastern Kabul, officials said.

An official at Pul-e-Charkhi prison, near the site of the blast, said the victims were American security advisors who work on a State Department-funded program to bolster the Afghan corrections system.

The advisors had just left the prison when their convoy was attacked, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak to the media.

North Atlantic Treaty Organization officials issued a statement describing the victims as contractors, but didn’t immediately confirm their nationalities.

Zubair Sediqqi, a Pakistan-based spokesman for the Hezb-i-Islami militant faction led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, claimed responsibility for the suicide attack.

At about 2:30 p.m. local time, a Toyota Corolla packed with explosives rammed into the convoy near Pul-e-Charkhi, Afghanistan’s biggest prison, said Hashmat Stanikzai, a spokesman for the Kabul police. Three Afghan civilians also were wounded in the attack, Afghan officials said.

Ambulances rushed to the scene, and U.S. military personnel, as well as Afghan security forces, also responded, officials said. Mangled parts of vehicles, including the suicide bomber’s car, littered the area, and nearby shop windows were shattered from the explosion.

The prison official said the convoy carried personnel working for the Corrections System Support Program, a State Department-funded initiative that trains prison officials, helps with improving infrastructure and works to rehabilitate former insurgents.

[Updated 11:43 a.m. PST, Feb. 10: The U.S. Embassy in Kabul said it could not confirm the information but issued a statement condemning the attack. “We will continue to work with our Afghan and international partners to ensure a peaceful future for Afghanistan,” the statement said.]

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Baktash is a special correspondent.