Bomb at U.S. base in Afghanistan wounds 77 Americans

September 11, 2011 - 16:55
altKABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A powerful Taliban truck bomb that wounded 77 American soldiers and killed five Afghans outside a combat outpost served as a reminder on Sunday that 10 years after the Sept. 11 attacks, nearly 100,000 U.S. troops are still fighting a war that shows no signs of slowing down.

No U.S. troops were killed when the massive bomb loaded on a truck filled with firewood exploded Saturday night just outside the gates of Combat Outpost Sayed Abad in eastern Wardak province. Officials said four of those killed were civilians, including a 3-year-old girl. Another 17 people — 14 civilians and three policemen — were wounded. The provincial governor said the blast was so powerful it damaged about 100 shops in the Sayed Abad bazaar, located near the military base.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. Earlier, they had issued a statement vowing to fight until all foreign troops leave. The radical Islamic movement, which gave shelter to Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda when it ruled Afghanistan, also stressed that it had no role in the Sept. 11 attacks, and it accused the U.S. of using them as a pretext to invade the country.

"The Afghans have an endless stamina for a long war," the statement said. "Through a countrywide uprising, the Afghans will send the Americans to the dustbin of history like they sent other empires of the past."

The attack occurred just 43 miles (70 kilometers) from Kabul in an increasingly lawless district that is just an hour's drive from the capital and is in a key province that controls a strategic approach to Kabul.

Sayed Abad is seven miles (12 kilometers) east of the Tangi Valley, where the Taliban on Aug. 6 shot down a U.S. military helicopter, killing 30 Americans. Many of the dead belonged to the U.S. Navy's SEAL Team 6 — the same elite unit that killed bin Laden during a May 2 cross-border raid into Pakistan, where Al-Qaeda's leadership was driven. It was the deadliest single loss for American forces in the decade-old war.

"Some back home have asked why we are still here," U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker said at a 9/11 memorial at the embassy in Kabul. "It's been a long fight and people are tired. The reason is simple. Al-Qaeda is not here in Afghanistan, and that is because we are. "

"We're here so that there is never again another 9/11 coming from Afghan soil. We, with our Afghan partners, figured out that the best way to ensure that is to work together and with the international community for a stable, secure, democratic Afghanistan."

The Taliban continues to launch regular attacks and orchestrate assassination campaigns against those allied with the government. In addition to the attack in Wardak on Saturday, 10 Afghan civilians were killed in two separate roadside bombings.

Two Afghan security guards were also killed late Saturday when an insurgent rocket slammed into a part of the sprawling U.S. base at Bagram air field outside Kabul, the U.S. military said. Two NATO service members and two Afghans were slightly wounded.

Although Saturday's truck bombing occurred outside the base, the numbers of injuries it caused was significant. Combat outposts usually base about 200 troops.

"Most of the force of the explosion was absorbed by the protective barrier at the outpost entrance," NATO said, adding that the damage was repairable and that operations were continuing.