A suicide bomber in an Afghan army uniform killed five foreign and four Afghan soldiers in an attack on a sprawling desert base in the east of the country today, the highest toll on NATO-led troops in a single attack for several months.
The attack hit a newly built base in a remote area which stretches between Laghman and Nangarhar provinces.
Home to the 201st Corps of the Afghan army, it is one of the biggest military installations in increasingly volatile eastern Afghanistan, said Nehman Atefi, a press officer in the base.
"In a suicide blast, by an attacker using a military uniform at an army base, four soldiers were killed and eight others including four interpreters were wounded," said Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Zahir Azimy.
The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said in a statement that five foreign soldiers were killed. A spokesman said initial reports indicated the attack was on Forward Operating Base Gamberi, in Laghman province, but confirmed it was the same attack referred to by Azimy. He gave no further details.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack in an email statement, saying 12 foreign troops and 14 Afghan soldiers were killed. The group frequently exaggerates casualty figures.
He said the bomber was from central Daikondi province, had enlisted with the Afghan army a month ago and detonated his explosives at a meeting between Afghan and foreign troops.
The Defence Ministry declined immediate comment on whether the attacker was a real soldier, which would make the killings the latest in series of deadly attacks by "rogue" members of the Afghan security forces on their colleagues and foreign mentors.
The uniform does not prove conclusively the attacker was a soldier because Afghan security force outfits are readily available in markets across the country - although their sale is technically illegal.
Yesterday, a suicide bomber in police uniform evaded tight security in police Headquarters in Kandahar city and killed Khan Mohammad Mujahid provincial police chief of Kandahar.