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Suicide bomber targets NATO troops, Afghan police

By Aimal Yaqubi and Alex Rodriguez, Los Angeles Times –

KABUL, Afghanistan — A suicide bomber attacked a group of NATO service members and Afghan security officials in northern Afghanistan on Wednesday, killing at least six people including three American soldiers, U.S. and Afghan officials said.

The bombing occurred in a city park in Maimanah, the capital of Faryab province along the border with Turkmenistan, as NATO service members gathered with Afghan security officials and police, said Abdul Haq Shafaq, Faryab’s governor.

Shafaq said the bomber was on foot, but Lal Mohammad Ahmad Zai, a police spokesman for northern Afghanistan, said the attacker was on a motorcycle.

There were also conflicting reports on the number dead. Shafaq put the death toll at six, but Zai said at least 10 people died, including four Afghan police officers.

A U.S. military official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because next of kin were still being notified, confirmed that three of the dead were U.S. soldiers.

Afghan intelligence officers poring over the scene said the bomber may have been wearing an Afghan police uniform, according to Shafaq.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement.

Though Faryab is regarded as a relatively peaceful province, it is also believed to be a stronghold for the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, or IMU. The al-Qaida-linked militant group for years has fought alongside Taliban insurgents battling Western coalition troops in Afghanistan.

Last month, a team of Western coalition and Afghan security forces in Faryab province killed the IMU’s leader in Afghanistan, Makhdum Nusrat, and several other fighters from the Uzbeki group. Nusrat was responsible for a series of attacks on Afghan and coalition troops in northern Afghanistan, NATO officials said.

The bombing in Faryab was the latest in a series of attacks by insurgents in recent weeks, a step-up that reflects the onset of the spring fighting season. During winter, combat in Afghanistan typically slows, as heavy snow blankets mountain passes used by insurgents to get into the country from their safe havens in Pakistan’s largely lawless tribal areas.

At least 101 soldiers with the U.S.-led coalition have been killed in Afghanistan so far this year, including 60 Americans, according to the independent website

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