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Suicide attack on Bagram airbase kills two

06 March, 2012

KABUL: Afghan officials say a suicide bomber, on Monday, killed at least two civilians after detonating explosives at the gates of the NATO base where copies of the holy Quran were burned.

The bomber targeted a vehicle belonging to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), said district Governor Kabir Ahmad Rahil. He added that there could be foreign casualties, although a NATO spokeswoman said no coalition troops had been harmed in the attack.

Rahil says four more civilians were wounded in the attack.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid in a text message claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was "revenge" for the holy Quran burning, He added that "a number of Americans" were killed and their tanks destroyed in the attack. Afghanistan's army chief has said burning of the holy Quran last month at the NATO base north of Kabul advanced the Taliban's cause and warned that any repeat of such "negligence" by Western forces could be disastrous.

The United States described the burnings as unintentional and apologised, but the apology has failed to quell widespread protests that killed at least 30, wounded hundreds and plunged Afghan-American relations to a new low. The burnings could also be behind the deaths of six American soldiers, including two high-ranking officers in the Afghan Interior Ministry, who are believed to have been shot by Afghan security forces.

Afghanistan's top religious council last week demanded that those responsible for the burning of the holy Quran should be put on a public trial. The results of an inquiry into the incident have not been released. The Washington Post has reported that five US soldiers were involved in the burning incident.

Citing US military officials, the Post said an investigation had established that the soldiers removed copies of the holy Quran from a prison at the Bagram air base after they were found to contain extremist messages. The books were placed in an office for safekeeping, only to be mistaken for garbage and taken to a landfill where Afghan employees identified them as the holy Quran just as the pages caught fire, according to the investigation.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has used the public outrage over the incident to press his demand that the Bagram prison be handed over to Afghan control. Last Monday, a suicide car bombing also claimed by the Taliban to be in revenge for the incident targeted NATO troops at an airport in eastern Afghanistan, killing nine people but no foreign soldiers.

The US-led NATO force has 130,000 troops fighting the Taliban, who were toppled from power in a US-led invasion in 2001. Just hours before the attack on Bagram, a suicide bomber on foot blew himself up at a police checkpoint in the eastern city of Jalalabad, killing a member of Afghan security forces and wounding eight, the Interior Ministry said.


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