A suicide car bomber struck a US military convoy passing through a crowded market in eastern Afghanistan on Thursday, killing at least five civilians and a coalition soldier and wounding an additional 57 civilians, officials said.
The bomber rammed his vehicle into the convoy as it traveled through Bati Kot district of Nangarhar province, said Ahmad Zia Abdulzai, a spokesman for the provincial governor. At least five civilians were killed in the blast, said Ghafoor Khan, the spokesman for the provincial police chief. Fifty-seven civilians were wounded, said Ajmal Pardes, a provincial health official.
Lt. Cmdr. Walter Matthews, a US military spokesman, said a member of the US-led coalition died of his injuries received in the attack. He would not disclose the nationality of the victim, but another US spokesman earlier said that the wounded soldier was an American.
If confirmed, that death would bring the number of U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan this year to at least 148, the highest annual tally of troop deaths since the US-led invasion in 2001. There were 111 US military deaths in Afghanistan in all of 2007. The bomber struck the convoy near a crowded market, where people were trading sheep, cows, goats and other animals, Khan said. An Associated Press photographer said that an American military vehicle, two civilian vehicles and two rickshaws were destroyed. The wounded civilians were transported in three hospitals in the provincial capital of Jalalabad, Khan said. The number of those killed is likely to rise, Khan said.
Pardes, the health official, said 17 of those wounded were given first aid and sent home. Another 40 were still being treated in hospitals.
Taliban militants regularly use suicide attackers and car bombs in their assaults against US, Afghan and other foreign troops in the country. But a majority of the victims in such attacks have been civilians.
On Wednesday, a truck bomb in southern Afghanistan killed six people and wounded 42.
The blast in Kandahar city, the Taliban's former stronghold, came as the provincial council was hearing constituent complaints. Two members of the provincial council were wounded in the attack, said Kandahar's Gov. Rahmatullah Raufi.