KABUL — A suicide bomber who had recently been recruited into the Afghan army blew himself up Saturday morning inside a military base, killing five NATO troops and four Afghan soldiers. Three more NATO troops were killed in subsequent attacks, according to the Associated Press, making Saturday one of the deadliest days for NATO forces this year.
The first bombing took place in a courtyard at the headquarters of the Afghan army’s 201st Corps, known as Forward Operating Base Gamberi, in eastern Afghanistan’s Laghman province. The base also has a contingent of NATO troops. NATO did not release the nationalities of its troops who died.
The bomber blew himself up just as local leaders had gathered for a meeting, according to Dawood Zarbah, the province’s deputy police chief. Eight other Afghans were also injured, hospital officials said.
“The enemy has lost their power to fight our forces face to face, and they’re using different cowardly tactics. They are using our holy uniform,” said Maj. Niaman Atifi, who is stationed at Gamberi.
In a statement of responsibility, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said the bomber, Abdul Ghani, was from Daikundi province and joined the army a month ago to carry out such an operation. He called Ghani a “hero.”
It was the second consecutive day that a bomber struck inside a fortified Afghan facility by wearing a uniform of the security forces. On Friday, a man in a police uniform killed the provincial police chief of Kandahar in the courtyard of police headquarters.
The Taliban appears to be intensifying its efforts to recruit members of the Afghan security forces to attack their comrades where they are most vulnerable. There have been several similar attacks in recent months, including one in November, when a man who had joined the border police killed six U.S. soldiers at a training base in Nangahar province.
The other three NATO casualties occurred in the south during two separate bomb attacks, the AP reported.
Amid the violence, Pakistan’s prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gillani, traveled to Kabul on Saturday and announced his country’s commitment to pushing forward the Afghan peace process. Many of the Taliban’s senior leaders reside in Pakistan, and the government there has been accused of supporting some insurgent factions. Afghans have long complained that Pakistan could do more to confront the Taliban.
Gillani said at a news conference that Pakistan “fully supports” Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s efforts to advance “an inclusive process of grand national reconciliation.” He announced a new high-level Pakistani-Afghan commission to work on the issue.
Karzai described his meeting Saturday with Pakistani officials as “historic and unprecedented.” Gillani’s expression of support, he said, marked “a fundamental departure from our meetings in the past.”
Hamdard is a special correspondent.