Brits, Canadian among 17 killed in Afghan attack

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The multi-national toll of one of the bloodiest attacks of the decade-long Afghan insurgency emerged on Sunday when officials said 10 Americans, two Brits and a Canadian were among 17 people killed.

Three Afghan bystanders and an Afghan policeman also died when the attacker blew up his explosives-laden Toyota sedan next to a US-run military bus travelling through the southwest of Kabul on Saturday morning.

US officials initially said all 13 foreigners killed -- five troops and eight civilian contractors -- were American but scaled that number down to 10 on Sunday as it emerged that two Brits and a Canadian were among the dead.

The attack was the deadliest on foreigners since 30 US troops, including 25 US Special Operations Forces, perished in mid-August when their helicopter was shot down south of Kabul in Wardak province.

Also on Saturday, three Australian army trainers were killed in the volatile southern province of Uruzgan when an Afghan soldier turned his gun on them, NATO and Afghan army officials said.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said he had spoken to the Australian premier and sent messages to the US and Canadian leaders "to express my sadness and revulsion at the deaths."

"High casualty attacks like these are a deliberate tactic to distract Afghans and the international community alike from the key work under way that most threatens the extremists," Cameron said in a written statement.

Britain has about 9,500 troops in Afghanistan and is the second-largest contributor to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force after the United States.

Canada, which confirmed one fatality in the Kabul blast, has about 900 troops participating in the NATO effort to train the Afghan army and national police to eventually take over security for the war-torn nation.

Military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Christian Lemay said: "The Canadian soldier died aboard a bus traveling between NATO camps in Kabul. It wasn't a military mission or training. He was simply returning to his place of work."

After London confirmed two of the contractors killed were British nationals, the Pentagon revised downwards the toll for the Americans.

"There were five ISAF service members killed, of which four were US," a defense official in Washington told AFP. "Eight civilian employees were also killed, of which six were American."

Eight other major incidents have hit Kabul since the beginning of the year, including an attack on a luxury hotel that killed 21 people in June, a deadly suicide bombing on a British cultural centre and a siege of the US embassy and NATO headquarters that killed at least 14 in a 19-hour siege.

The assassination last month of the government's chief peace broker, former president Burhanuddin Rabbani, also in Kabul, underscored the vulnerability of the capital as President Hamid Karzai's Western backers push for solutions to end the war and remove their combat troops by the end of 2014.

A regional conference is to be held in Istanbul next week at which Karzai is to give a list of areas in up to 17 provinces that will soon see a handover from NATO to Afghan control.

But there are deep doubts over the ability of the fledgling Afghan army and police to secure the country, with the Taliban proving their ability to strike in the once-peaceful north.


© 2011 AFP

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