KABUL, Afghanistan -- The U.S.-military contractor DynCorp International says four American employees were killed in a suicide car bombing Thursday in the Afghan capital, Kabul, bringing the number of Americans slain to six.
Nine Afghan civilians were also killed and 39 injured, including many women and children, said Dr. Kanishka Turkistani, a spokesman with the Afghan public health ministry.
The explosion, which was heard across Kabul, sent a large cloud of white smoke into the air around 8 a.m., just as many people were commuting to work. Mohammad Ayob Salangi, Kabul’s police chief, said the attack in the Shah Shahid neighborhood took place when a suicide bomber in a Toyota Corolla pulled up beside a NATO convoy.
Footage of the scene showed the road scattered with debris from torn-apart vehicles in front of several damaged or destroyed houses. Firefighters and police officers were shown combing the wreckage and tending to the injured.
A spokesman with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force confirmed that two American troops were killed in the attack.
DynCorp International said in a statement that four of its civilian contractors were also killed and three others wounded. The DynCorp employees were in Afghanistan working on a program to train Afghan security forces. A company official said they were all Americans.
Speaking by phone from Pakistan, Zubair Sediqqi, a spokesman for the Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin militant group, claimed responsibility for the attack, saying that a suicide car bomb targeted a convoy, killing more than 10 foreigners.
“Our party will increase its attacks against foreign troops in Afghanistan in the future,” he added.
Insurgent groups in Afghanistan have a history of taking questionable credit for attacks done by others and exaggerating claims.
Sediqqi added that the group was also targeting Afghans working with foreigners in Afghanistan. In September, it claimed responsibility for a suicide car bombing that killed 12 people.
Founded in 1977, Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin was initially engaged in fighting the country's Soviet occupiers. The group was forced out of Kabul by the Taliban in the mid-1990s, then found a new mission after 2001, according to the Columbia World Dictionary of Islamism, when it aligned with remnants of the Taliban and Al Qaeda to fight the government of President Hamid Karzai.
Karzai condemned Thursday’s attack, calling it “an inhumane and un-Islamic act.”
Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., who commands international troops in Afghanistan, said, “The insurgents cannot offer the Afghan people a better future.”
"All they can offer is violence and oppression," he said in a statement. "While today's attack shows the insurgents remain dangerous, they are not a threat to the Afghan government and its forces."
Special correspondent Baktash reported from Kabul. Staff writer Magnier reported from New Delhi.