Arrests in Afghan attack that killed 6 US troops

NATO spokesman Brig Gen Blotz said several arrests were made on Sunday night.

Kabul: Several suspects have been arrested after a suicide attack killed six American troops when an explosives-packed minibus blew up at the entrance of a joint NATO-Afghan base in southern Afghanistan, officials said on Monday.

The blast on Sunday was the deadliest attack on coalition troops this month.

NATO spokesman Brig Gen Josef Blotz said on Monday that several arrests were made on Sunday night.

"Individuals believed to be involved in yesterday`s attack have been arrested by Afghan and coalition forces," Blotz said at a news conference, adding that no shots were fired as the suspects were taken into custody.

NATO has declined to identify the victims` nationalities. But an Afghan Army official in southern Afghanistan said on Monday that the six were Americans. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak about NATO casualties.

He said the confirmation came in an official report about the attack.

NATO has claimed improvements in security after months of raids, patrols and strikes on insurgents in Kandahar province, but Sunday`s attack shows the area is still far from safe.

The assault came days ahead of a major White House review of its Afghan strategy following President Barack Obama`s decision last year to send 30,000 American reinforcements in a bid to reverse gains by the Taliban since they were ousted from power in the 2001 US-led invasion.

Afghan officials said Sunday`s suicide attack took place in Kandahar`s Zhari district, where Mullah Mohammad Omar organised the Taliban in the early 1990s. Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi claimed responsibility for the blast, saying the insurgent group was retaliating for attacks on its fighters in the area in recent months.

US and Afghan forces launched a major operation in September to secure Zhari, a lush farming region of irrigation canals and grape vineyards that the Taliban have used as a staging area for attacks in nearby Kandahar city and other parts of the south.

Zhari has remained insurgent territory despite five major NATO operations in recent years. In 2006, a Canadian-led force launched a concerted push in Zhari and nearby Panjwai district, driving out the Taliban but at a cost of 28 coalition lives. Months later, the Taliban were back.

Bureau Report