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In Afghanistan, car bomb explodes outside U.S. base

A car bomb blew up Tuesday at the gates of a U.S. military base on the outskirts of Kabul, and Afghan officials said at least half a dozen people were hurt. The Taliban claimed responsibility.

The attack, the second major strike in Afghanistan’s capital in just over a week, appeared intended as a reminder of the insurgency’s strength in advance of a major international conference on the country’s security.

President Hamid Karzai is to meet in London on Thursday with senior representatives of countries contributing troops and aid to Afghanistan, with the aim of bolstering support for the war effort and his beleaguered government. He also is expected to voice support for trying to bring the Taliban into the political process and persuading foot soldiers to lay down their arms in exchange for jobs and other incentives.

Tuesday’s attack took place just outside an installation known as Camp Phoenix, used mainly by U.S. troops who are helping to train Afghan security forces. Building up the nation’s army and police force is considered a cornerstone of the West’s eventual exit strategy, though military officials acknowledge that it will be a difficult undertaking.

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Camp Phoenix, on the main road leading out of Kabul toward the eastern city of Jalalabad, is a frequent target of insurgent attacks, in part because it is close to a main roadway, and suicide bombers often try to strike convoys that are arriving or leaving. Such an attack in mid-November injured about two dozen people, nine of them Western troops.

U.S. and other Western military officials did not immediately disclose whether any troops were among those wounded in Tuesday’s attack, which came during evening rush hour. Afghan officials reported that at least six people were; all or most of the injured were believed to be civilians.

The latest bombing came eight days after insurgents paralyzed the capital with an hours-long assault on government buildings and other targets in the city center. Seven attackers were killed, and although the toll was relatively low -- five other deaths -- the insurgents’ demonstrated ability to infiltrate heavily guarded parts of Kabul was a major symbolic blow to the Karzai government and added to a growing sense of insecurity felt by many city residents.

On Tuesday, Afghan intelligence officials provided the most detailed information yet about the Jan. 18 attack in the capital.

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At a news conference, they showed a video of an Afghan man arrested last week on suspicion of helping to carry out the attack.

In it, the man, identified as Kamaluddin, said he received his orders from the Haqqani network, a virulent militant organization whose leadership is based in Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal area. Speaking in calm, measured tones, he said he housed the seven attackers before the strike, providing them with suicide vests and other weapons.

laura.king@latimes.com


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