Suicide bomber targets British Embassy vehicle in Kabul, killing 5

A suicide bomber in a car packed with explosives struck a British Embassy vehicle Thursday, killing six people, including a British civilian security officer, and wounding more than 34 in the latest in a string of insurgent attacks in the Afghan capital.

An Afghan working for the embassy was killed and a second British member of the security team was among the injured, according to a statement from the U.S.-led military coalition in Afghanistan.


Later, two suicide bombers set off their explosives near the office of an international nongovernmental organization in Kabul's diplomatic neighborhood, injuring one foreign national, Afghan officials said. Witnesses said the explosions were followed by gunfire and targeted a compound belonging to International Relief and Development, an American nonprofit group that is one of the largest recipients of U.S. government funding in Afghanistan.

Gen. Ayoub Salangi, the deputy interior minister, said the two bombers were killed.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for both attacks, an apparent show of strength one week before an international meeting in London at which the governments of Britain, the U.S. and other nations are expected to renew financial and diplomatic support for the new Afghan government and mark the end of the NATO combat mission in Afghanistan.

The British Embassy vehicle was struck as it traveled on a main road leading to the eastern city of Jalalabad, the site of another insurgent attack earlier in the week that killed two soldiers belonging to the U.S.-led military coalition. Pictures circulated on social media showed an armored sport-utility vehicle flipped onto its side, its engine charred and hood twisted. It was not immediately clear who had been traveling in the vehicle.

Five children were among the injured, according to Health Ministry spokesman Kaneshka Turkistani.

"I strongly condemn this despicable attack by the Taliban against those who were serving to help improve conditions in Afghanistan," Army Gen. John F. Campbell, the commander of coalition forces, said in a statement.

Attacks on international personnel as well as Afghan civilians have increased markedly over the last week. The violence poses a direct challenge to President Ashraf Ghani's administration, which has broad popular support following a contested runoff election in June but has yet to name a Cabinet.

Ghani has also taken steps to expand cooperation with international forces, raising pressure on the insurgents. The Afghan Senate approved a bilateral security agreement with the United States and a similar status-of-forces agreement with NATO on Thursday that paves the way for about 12,000 international forces, including about 10,000 American troops, to remain in the country after the NATO combat mission ends in December.

Ghani is reportedly close to allowing U.S. special operations forces to resume nighttime raids in pursuit of Taliban suspects, a deeply controversial practice that his predecessor, Hamid Karzai, banned as an intrusion into civilian homes. Though the security pact ratified Thursday does not explicitly address night raids, U.S. officials say it would allow for continued joint U.S.-Afghan counter-terrorism operations.

"Ratification enables the U.S. and Afghanistan to continue our close cooperation in the shared pursuit of security and stability for Afghanistan," U.S. Ambassador James B. Cunningham said in a statement.

In the northern province of Kunduz, where the Taliban has grabbed control of several districts in recent months, insurgents kidnapped 15 government officials late Wednesday, according to local officials.

Abdul Wasay Basel, a spokesman for the governor's office, said that employees of the provincial customs office were traveling to the provincial capital when their bus was stopped by Taliban fighters. The bus driver was suspected of having links with the insurgents, he said.

Basel said the employees are believed to have been taken to Dasht-e-Archi, a long-contested district where government forces recently launched an operation to flush out insurgents.

Special correspondent Ahmadi reported from Kabul and Times staff writer Bengali from Mumbai, India.


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