KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) – Taleban suicide bombers struck two buses carrying Afghan soldiers in Kabul early Wednesday, killing seven people and wounding 21, just a day after the signing of a key US-Afghan security pact.
The long-awaited deal allows US forces to remain in the country past the end of 2014, ending the uncertainty over the fate of foreign troops supporting Afghans as they take over the fight against the Taleban insurgency.
Wednesday’s attacks involved two suicide bombers targeting buses carrying Afghan troops in the country’s capital.
The first attacker hit a bus with Afghan National Army officers in west Kabul, killing seven and wounding 15, said the city’s criminal investigation police chief Mohammad Farid Afzali.
The second attacker, who was also on foot, blew himself up in front of a bus in northeastern Kabul, wounding at least six army personnel, Afzali said.
Taleban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attacks, saying the security pact with America has only motivated the group and given the Taleban “more morale” to fight the enemy.
“They need to give more sacrifices to make their homeland free,” Mujahid said, referring to Taleban fighters.
In a separate statement to media, the Taleban denounced the Bilateral Security Agreement as an “American plot” and said that “such fake documents will never hold back the lawful holy war”.
In Kabul, dozens of Afghan security forces sealed off the attack sites, littered with broken glass, as military ambulances took the victims to hospital. Worried Afghans passed by, on their way to work.
Under the security pact, along with a separate deal signed with NATO, about 10,000 American troops and several thousand more from other NATO countries will stay to train and advise Afghan forces after the international combat mission ends on December 31.
More than a decade after US forces helped topple the Taleban in the wake of the September 11 attacks, Afghanistan is still at war with the militant group, which regularly carries out attacks, mainly targeting security forces.
There are also serious questions about the ability of the Afghan security forces to take on the militants, even with a residual US force remaining in the country.
In other violence, two police officers were killed when a suicide bomber targeted a police vehicle late Tuesday in Lashkar Gah, the capital of southern Helmand province. Five policemen were also wounded in the attack, Omar Zwak, the spokesman for the provincial governor said Wednesday.
The US-Afghan pact was long in the making. US officials had first warned their Afghan counterparts that if the security accord was not signed by the end of 2013, the Pentagon would have to start planning for a full withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.
But when the year ended, the White House moved back the deadline, saying then-President Hamid Karzai needed to sign off within weeks. Karzai surprised US officials by ultimately saying he would not sign the accord and would instead leave that task for his successor.
But the results of the race to replace Karzai took months resolve, finally coming to a conclusion on Monday with the swearing in of Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai as Afghanistan’s second elected president.