KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A Taliban suicide car bomber attacked a convoy from the European Union police training mission Sunday near the Afghan capital’s international airport, killing at least three people, including a Briton, authorities said.
The attack in Kabul comes amid a stepped-up Taliban campaign that saw its militants attack a guesthouse days earlier in Kabul, killing 14 people, including nine foreigners. The assaults show the challenges facing Afghan security forces, which have been in charge of their country’s war since NATO and U.S. troops ended their combat mission at the end of last year.
The car bomb exploded early Sunday morning near the office of the Afghan Civil Aviation Authority, a few hundred meters (yards) from the airport’s main terminal, said Najib Danish, a deputy Interior Ministry spokesman. The blast damaged one foreign vehicle and two civilian vehicles, he said.
Sari Haukka-Konu, a spokeswoman for the EU’s police mission, said one non-mission member traveling in a EUPOL vehicle had been killed. The British Embassy in Kabul identified the dead Briton as a security contractor, without elaborating.
Britain’s Foreign Secretary Phil Hammond called the attack cowardly.
“These attacks must not stop the people of Afghanistan, with the support of the international community, working towards a more peaceful future,” he said in a statement.
Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said the blast also killed two Afghans passing by and wounded 18 people, including three foreigners. Haukka-Konu said some of those wounded including EUPOL mission members.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani also condemned the attack.
“The killing of innocent women and children shows the terrorists have been defeated on the battlefield and are looking for alternative means of killing innocent people,” Ghani said.
A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement emailed to journalists, saying the bomber targeted “a convoy of foreign invader forces.”
The EU’s police effort has continued despite the 13-year intentional combat mission to Afghanistan ending Dec. 31. It has been working to build a civilian police force in Afghanistan for more than a decade and has around 240 international staffers and 187 local workers, with a budget in 2015 of 58 million euros ($66 million), according to its website.
The Taliban, who have been waging an insurgency since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion toppled their government, launched their annual warm weather offensive in late April.
Meanwhile, a magnetic bomb attached to a vehicle exploded early Saturday in Kabul’s eastern suburbs, wounding one person, Sediqqi said. Late Saturday, an explosion inside the campus of Kabul University wounded two people, he said.
An Afghan Army helicopter also crashed Sunday while on an exercise in Kabul’s western outskirts, the Defense Ministry deputy spokesman Daulat Waziri said. The crash injured the craft’s two pilots, Waziri said.