A suicide bomber blew himself up in a crowded provincial market Thursday about 500 yards from where the U.S. ambassador was meeting with local leaders, officials reported. Ten Afghans were killed and 50 wounded in the deadliest of a recent series of attacks.Ambassador Ronald E. Neumann was not hurt. A purported spokesman for the ousted Taliban militia later asserted responsibility and said the insurgents had hoped to kill "high-ranking Americans."
Recent violence in Afghanistan has reinforced fears among Afghan officials that the Taliban and al Qaeda might have merged some of their forces and are adopting terror tactics used in Iraq.Thursday's attack occurred in Tirin Kot, capital of mountainous Uruzgan province, scene of some of the heaviest fighting in the past year. The bomb detonated in a market where townsfolk were trading sheep, vegetables and other local goods. At the time, Neumann was in the house of the provincial governor.
"People were lying dead and wounded everywhere. They were screaming and crying. Some had no legs and arms," said Dil Aqa, a 50-year-old farmer. "Who would do such a thing? These were innocent people."Among the wounded was the provincial deputy police chief, who was manning a checkpoint next to the governor's house.
Fifteen of the 50 wounded were in critical condition and had been rushed to hospitals in the nearby city of Kandahar. Two of the 10 dead were children, said Abdullah Khan, the governor's spokesman. The ambassador always travels with heavy security, on a schedule that is rarely made public. He was quickly whisked into a small room by his bodyguards when the explosion was heard, said Abdul Aziz, the deputy provincial governor. They waited there for about 15 minutes before they left the building.
Neumann then returned to the capital, Kabul, U.S. Embassy spokesman Lou Fintor said. "The ambassador and his party are safe. . . . They were not in any danger," he said, reports Washington Post. I.L.