British soldier killed in Kabul suicide attack

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The Independent Online

A British soldier was killed and three others were wounded by a suicide bomber who detonated a taxi packed with explosives next to their military jeep in Afghanistan yesterday.

An official from the Taliban said the group claimed responsibility for the attack in Kabul. He said that the bomber was a British national, an Algerian-born man called Sa'ad, who had also taken part in the intifada in Palestine against Israel.

It was the second suicide attack against international peace-keeping troops in the Afghan capital within 48 hours. It came as the multinational Nato-led force was mourning the effects of the first - the death on Tuesday of a Canadian soldier after a bomber jumped in front of his vehicle.

Yesterday's attack happened at 11am on a road leading east out of Kabul towards Jalalabad. It was close to the place where four German peace-keeping soldiers were killed six months ago, also by a suicide bomber.

Mirza Mohammed, an Afghan police officer, said: "We heard a powerful explosion. When we got out we saw a destroyed British vehicle ... along with a taxi. We carried one dead British soldier along with three other wounded British soldiers and one of their translators."

The bombing took place as American officials in Washington confirmed that the US Defence Department was planning a fresh attempt to crush the Taliban, al-Qa'ida and other insurgents, who have recently increased activity in Afghanistan. This had mostly centred on the wild eastern border areas, but the fight appears to have reached the capital.

The Americans have been hinting that this could result in the extension of military operations across the border into Pakistan.The offensive is the latest in a series of signals from the Americans that they are stepping up their drive against armed militant groups, who - more than two years after the overthrow of the Taliban - continue to frustrate them.

Lieutenant-general David Barno, the US commander of the 12,000 coalition forces in Afghanistan, told the BBC this week that he expected to bring Osama bin Laden and Mullah Mohammed Omar, the Taliban leader, to justice by the end of this year.

About 500 people have been killed in the past six months of the conflict, which has seen repeated attacks on soldiers from the transitional US-backed Afghan government, the staff of international aid agencies, US troops and the 5,500-strong international peace-keeping force.

The Taliban threatened more killing yesterday. Speaking to Reuters from an undisclosed location, Abdul Latif Hakimi, described by the news agency as a Taliban official, said that yesterday's bombing was "just the beginning".

He said: "More such attacks will take place. Hundreds of our men are ready to carry out such attacks." He said that the man who carried out yesterday's attack - which was also said to have killed an Afghan civilian - was in his twenties and had been based in Uzbekistan.

The attacks coincide with a political row over the country's new constitution which was signed into law by the US-sponsored interim President, Hamid Karzai, on Monday. Opponents objected that Mr Karzai signed a version which included several changes from the one adopted by a grand assembly which spent weeks hammering out a blueprint. They claim that the signed version enhances the powers of the office of president.