4 Americans killed in suicide bombing at US base in Afghanistan

Airmen patrol the flightline perimeter, June 27, 2016, Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.



KABUL, Afghanistan — Four Americans were killed Saturday in an attack on the largest U.S. military base in Afghanistan, the Pentagon said.

An apparent suicide bomber was responsible for the attack, which killed two U.S. servicemembers and two contractors, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said in a statement. In addition, 16 other American servicemembers and one Polish soldier were wounded.

The Taliban claimed that one of their militants who worked at the base had blown himself up.

“Force protection is always a top priority for us in Afghanistan, and we will investigate this tragedy to determine any steps we can take to improve it,” Carter said. He assured that those injured “are getting the best possible care.”

The incident, coming two days after a suicide bombing that targeted the German Consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif, highlights the growing insecurity in Afghanistan nearly two years after international combat operations formally ended. It brings to eight the number of American troops killed in Afghanistan this year.

Neither Carter nor NATO, which leads the Resolute Support mission that trains and advises Afghan forces, identified those killed or injured.

The Taliban said in a statement that one of their members, Hafiz Mohammad Parwani, had been working undercover on the base and had planned the attack over the past four months.

Parwani blew himself up when many soldiers were doing their morning exercises, the insurgent group said.

Abdul Shukour Qudoosi, the governor of Parwan province’s Bagram district, said the blast was “huge” and could be heard by Afghans living outside the heavily fortified airfield, situated some 35 miles north of Kabul, the capital. “It shook the whole district,” he said.

Qudoosi said that as of Saturday evening officials were trying to determine how the bomber was able to sneak the large amount of explosives involved in the attack past the security checks at the base.

Gen. John W. Nicholson, U.S. Army commander of Resolute Support, expressed his condolence to the family and friends of the four Americans killed.

“To those who target coalition forces, (Afghan forces) and Afghan civilians, Resolute Support and U.S. Forces Afghanistan will continue to pursue our train, advise and assist mission to help our partners create a better Afghanistan,” Nicholson said in a statement.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing on Thursday that targeted the German Consulate in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif. Afghan officials said at least four civilians were killed and more than 120 others were injured in that attack.

Taliban insurgents, who are attempting to overthrow Afghanistan’s U.S.-backed government and expel foreign forces, have stepped up attacks in recent months and are threatening six of the country’s provincial capitals. The group is said to control more territory now than at any time since 2001, when a U.S.-led invasion removed them from power.

In December, a Taliban suicide bomber on a motorcycle killed six U.S. soldiers near Bagram Air Field in one of the deadliest attacks on foreign forces in 2015. Thousands of U.S. servicemembers, coalition troops and civilian contractors are stationed at the base.

Twitter: @PhillipWellman