By Joshua Partlow
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
KABUL, Aug. 18 -- A suicide bomber blew up a car near a NATO convoy on the dusty outskirts of Kabul on Tuesday, and mortars or rockets struck near the presidential palace, as the Afghanistan government moved to stop the media from reporting on violence during this week's presidential election.
The government issued two decrees calling for a ban on news broadcasts about violence as voters go to the polls on Thursday in an attempt to keep Afghans from being frightened away from voting.
"We have taken this decision in the national interest of Afghanistan in order to encourage people and raise their morale to come out and vote," a spokesman for President Hamid Karzai told Reuters.
Such a decision seems unlikely to have much impact at a time when scores of reporters from local and international media are closely following developments in Afghanistan, including the ongoing violence before the election.
The car bomb Tuesday exploded about 1 p.m. near a convoy by Camp Phoenix, a British military base on a dusty road outside Kabul leading to Jalalabad, killing 10 people and wounding 55 others, officials said.
NATO said that one Western soldier, whose nationality was not released, was killed and two others were injured in the explosion. Seven Afghan civilians were also killed, along with two Afghan employees of the United Nations.
"The people are still ready to go and vote," said Zamaray Bashari, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, who added that 18 vehicles were damaged or destroyed in the explosion.
The separate attack involving rockets or mortars that crashed down near the presidential palace caused no serious damage and neither Karzai nor anyone else was injured in the explosions, deputy presidential spokesman Hamid Elmi told the Associated Press.
The Taliban has warned repeatedly it would carry out attacks to try to disrupt the election process and scare people away from the polls on Thursday. On Saturday, the Taliban took credit for another suicide car bombing outside the entrance to U.S. military and NATO headquarters in Kabul that killed seven people.
Special correspondent Javed Hamdard contributed to this report.