77 Americans wounded in Afghan blast

KABUL: A suicide bomber driving a truck of firewood attacked a NATO base in central Afghanistan, killing four civilians and injuring 77 US troops on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, NATO and Afghan officials said on Sunday.Taliban claimed responsibility for Saturday’s bombing, which created one of the highest injury tolls of the decade-long war and came just hours after the insurgent group slammed the United States for dragging Afghanistan into war.An 8-year-old boy was among those killed in the bombing at a combat outpost in Wardak province, the governor’s office said in a statement. Fourteen civilians were also wounded.None of the injuries to the US troops was life threatening, and the base remained operational although its perimeter fence was damaged, a spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said.“Seventy-seven people is a large number, when you come to casualty figures, but the majority of them could very quickly be treated, there was nobody who was in danger of losing his life, and a high number of them returned to duty,” said spokesman General Carsten Jacobson.In a statement emailed to media, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the truck used in the attack was packed with nine tonnes of explosives and more than 100 foreign troops were killed or wounded.

“A big cloud of smoke rose to the sky and foreign troops’ helicopters were landing and taking off in the base for more than five hours after the blast,” said Abdul Karim, a shopkeeper from the town near the base.The windows and doors of more than 100 shops and houses were damaged in the explosion, the governor’s office said.NATO-led forces have committed to withdrawing all combat troops by the end of 2014, and in July began the first phase of a gradual process to hand security control to Afghan troops.

But US Ambassador Ryan Crocker at a ceremony to mark the anniversary of the attacks in New York and Washington said the United States will remain engaged in Afghanistan.“We are and will remain committed to Afghanistan and the region. We are in this for the long haul. We are transitioning security responsibility to Afghan forces, but transition does not mean disengagement,” Crocker said. – Dailytimes