UPDATED Saturday 5:45 p.m. EST: At least 12 Americans and one Canadian - five soldiers, and eight civilian contractors - died in a suicide bombing Saturday in Kabul.
"Five International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) service members and eight ISAF civilian employees died following a suicide vehicle-born improvised explosive device attack in Kabul earlier today," ISAF said in a statement. Reuters reports that a Canadian military spokesman said one of the dead was a Canadian soldier.
The suicide attack Saturday is one of the deadliest days for US forces in the history of the 10-year war.
A car bomb targeted a NATO convoy moving on a large road in the southwest area of Kabul, near the Afghan parliament building. In addition to the confirmed ISAF deaths, three Afghan civilians, and an Afghan policeman are also reported to be fatalities of the attack.
That so many foreign forces were killed in the capital city, regarded as one of the most secure areas of the country, will prove a serious point of concern for security officials and Afghans alike. A recent wave of attacks and assassinations here has deepened concerns that security in Kabul is steadily deteriorating.
“For a long time, we haven’t had such attacks in Kabul, especially on foreign forces,” says Abdul Ghafoor Liwal, director of Regional Studies Center of Afghanistan. “Insurgents want to show that they can still manage such attacks on foreign troops. … I think they will be able to repeat such attacks on foreigners, and on the Afghan government and forces as well.”
In addition to death toll from the Kabul blast, at least two but possibly three Australian soldiers were reportedly shot dead by an assailant wearing an Afghan Army uniform in the south of Afghanistan. Officials from the International Security Assistance Force have yet to release the nationality of the victims. If three Australians are confirmed dead, it would be the worst day for the country since June 2010.
Today’s bombing comes about a month after a complex attack rocked the US embassy and NATO headquarters in Kabul on Sept. 13. But while the attack lasted almost 20 hours, seven Afghans were killed by insurgents and no embassy or NATO personnel were killed or wounded.
On Aug. 6, insurgents inflicted the heaviest single day losses on US troops in Afghanistan by shooting down a helicopter in Wardak Province, west of Kabul, killing 31 American service members, mostly Navy SEALS. The second and third bloodiest days came on June 28, 2005, and April 6, 2005, when 19 and 15 US service members were killed, respectively.
Traditionally, record single day losses have come from helicopter crashes, making Saturday’s heavy losses especially unique as they resulted from a bombing and a shooting.
“It’s a big blow for the US, but we have to realize that we are in a conflict zone. Kabul is a calm place, but the hostile elements being equipped with all sorts of means to attack the American forces are always out there and waiting for the moment,” says Barry Salaam, an independent analyst and civil society activist in Kabul. “For a single attack, it was definitely a big casualty. But this is not the first time, obviously, that the Americans have suffered heavy casualties in Afghanistan.”