Kabul: A suicide bomber targeting an American military delegation outside a government office in eastern Afghanistan killed 12 people on Monday, including nine schoolchildren who were walking nearby and two international service members, officials said.
The attack comes as the Taliban and other militants step up bombings and raids on police posts nationwide in a major test of the ability of Afghan soldiers and police to hold their ground without international military forces, who are withdrawing.
Gen Zelmia Oryakhail, provincial police chief of Paktia province, said the bomber on a motorcycle detonated his explosives in Samkani district as American forces passed. He said a local school had just let pupils, who were between 10 and 16 years old, out for the day.
The US military delegation had just attended a security briefing at the district administrative office, said district chief Saleh Mohammad Ahsas, who was in the meeting.
He said the bomber appeared to have been waiting for the delegation and struck as the Americans left the compound, and the blast killed people walking nearby including the schoolchildren.
The US military coalition in Afghanistan confirmed that two of its service members died in the explosion. It did not disclose their nationalities.
Officials gave conflicting initial reports on the Afghan death toll, but Oryakhail said late today that he had accounted for all the bodies, many burned beyond recognition, and the final count was one Afghan policeman and nine dead from the school, along with the two coalition troops.
Seven more Afghan civilians, including two children, were killed today in the eastern province of Laghman when their vehicle hit a bomb in the road. A statement from the provincial government said four women and two children had gone with a male driver into the hills to collect firewood. On their way back, their vehicle hit the device, killing everyone inside.
The Afghan army and police are fighting the insurgency this year with little or no help from international forces that have been in Afghanistan since the 2001 US-led invasion to topple the Taliban for sheltering al Qaeda`s terrorist leadership after the September 11 attacks on American soil.
As the 2014 withdrawal of most international forces looms, insurgents are intensifying their attacks, using a broad range of tactics from suicide bombings to improvised bombs that are often accidentally detonated by passing vehicles, killing civilians. An assassination campaign against police chiefs and local government officials also has continued.