A car bomb exploded on Wednesday outside a small NATO military base in southern Afghanistan’s largest city, wounding two Afghans and destroying several cars, police said.
It was the latest in a string of bold attacks on high—profile NATO targets in the past two weeks, following a Taliban announcement of a spring offensive against alliance and Afghan forces. The announcement was their response to the Obama administration’s vow to squeeze the militants out of Kandahar province strongholds.
The blast occurred around 11-30 a.m. in a parking lot used by Afghans visiting Camp Nathan Smith in Kandahar city, said Gen. Shafiq Fazli, the police commander for southern Afghanistan. The base houses a few hundred Canadian soldiers, along with American military police and U.S. and Canadian government employees working on development projects.
Gen. Fazli said no one was killed. A police officer said at least one security guard and one Afghan who works at the base were wounded. The officer gave only one name, Khalid.
Wednesday’s blast destroyed 11 cars that were parked in the lot, along with about 50 motorcycles and more than a dozen bicycles, the Interior Ministry said in a statement. The bomb was placed in a Toyota Corolla in the lot, it said.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but Kandahar is a Taliban stronghold. NATO has announced plans in the coming months for a major push to shore up government control of the city.
People reached by phone inside Camp Nathan Smith said they had been ordered into bunkers but that the area appeared quiet since the explosion. They spoke on condition of anonymity because details of the attack had not been released.
The string of attacks on NATO targets began on May 18, when a Taliban suicide bomber attacked a NATO convoy in the capital, killing 18 people including six NATO service members” five Americans and a Canadian.
The next day, dozens of Taliban militants attacked the main U.S. military base, Bagram Air Field, killing an American contractor in fighting that lasted more than eight hours.
Then on Saturday, insurgents firing rockets, mortars and automatic weapons tried to storm Kandahar Air Field, NATO’s main base in the south. Kandahar Air Field is about 12 miles (20 kilometers) outside the city, while Camp Nathan Smith is in downtown Kandahar.
The chief NATO spokesman in Afghanistan, German Brig. Gen. Josef Blotz, said the recent attacks were to gain “worldwide public attention” and to show their own supporters “that they’re still there and able to do something.”
Brig. Gen. Blotz said the campaign to gain the initiative against the Taliban “is still bumpy” but was going better than “a couple of years and even a couple of months earlier.”
Also on Wednesday, a British soldier was killed in a firefight in Helmand province of southern Afghanistan, the British Ministry of Defence said.
In eastern Nuristan province, police have been battling hundreds of insurgents for four days, officials said. At least seven militants and one police officer have died so far in the fighting in Nuristan’s Barg—e—Matal district, the Interior Ministry said in statement.
The insurgents attacked the district government building on Sunday and a small police force has been trying to keep them at bay since then, said Gen. Mohammad Qasim Jangulbagh, the provincial police chief.
“There are many fewer police than attackers but we have the locals helping us,” Gen. Jangulbagh said, explaining that villagers have grabbed their guns and joined the police in the fight. He said police have asked for reinforcements, but none has arrived yet.
Nuristan Gov. Jamaludin Badar said they also have asked NATO forces for help. He said the attackers were Taliban militants, including Pakistani Taliban under the leadership of Maulana Fazlullah, nicknamed the “Radio Mullah” for his hard—line anti—Western broadcasts on a militant radio station in northwestern Pakistan.
He led Pakistan Taliban forces in their takeover of the Swat Valley until the Pakistan military routed them from the area last year.