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Bomber on a motorbike kills 9 in Afghan attack

Explosion is set off at army training unit

KABUL, Afghanistan -- A uniformed man on a motorbike detonated a bomb yesterday, killing nine people and wounding 28, outside an Afghan Army training center where soldiers were waiting to take buses home, authorities said.

The explosion broke 10 days of relative calm, after landmark parliamentary elections. The blast underscored the threat still facing Afghanistan as it moves toward democracy. It also added to fears that insurgents are using tactics adopted in Iraq.

A purported Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility, and threatened more suicide attacks against US and Afghan forces. His account of the bombing differed from those of witnesses, however, and his claims could not be verified.

A Defense Ministry spokesman, General Mohammed Zaher Azimi, said that authorities had not identified the bomber, but that ''international terrorists" were involved. He did not elaborate.

President Hamid Karzai condemned the attack in ''the strongest terms" as he ordered authorities to investigate.

The attack targeted the US-trained Afghan National Army, which numbers about 30,000, and which is a key plank of efforts to rebuild the country.

General Ghulam Saki, commander of the Kabul Military Training Center, said nine members of the army had been killed, as well as the attacker. Three civilian bus workers were among 28 people treated in a military hospital.

This year has seen a surge in violence in Afghanistan, mostly in the volatile south and east where Taliban-led insurgents are strongest. More than 1,300 people, many of them rebels, have died in the past seven months.

Kabul, which is patrolled by thousands of NATO soldiers, is regarded as one of the country's safest places, despite several kidnappings of foreigners over the past year.

Witnesses said the attacker in yesterday's bombing wore a uniform and rode a motorbike into the parking lot of the training center in eastern Kabul, as officers and soldiers waited to take minibuses out of the area. The blast reportedly went off at about 4 p.m.

NATO forces with tanks and armored personnel carriers blocked roads to the blast scene. But a reporter who gained access saw three blackened, badly damaged minibuses, one lying on its side. Investigators worked under floodlights, while NATO soldiers with flashlights searched nearby woods.

In a call to the Associated Press almost five hours after the attack, a purported Taliban spokesman, who named himself as Mullah Latif Hakimi, identified the bomber as Mullah Sardar Mohammad, a 22-year-old fighter.

Hakimi's account of the attack appeared to be at odds with witness accounts. He said the attacker had struck at army headquarters as foreign instructors were training Afghan cadets.

He also said other Taliban fighters were ready to launch suicide attacks on US-led coalition and Afghan government forces.

Information from Hakimi has sometimes been exaggerated or found to be untrue. Afghan and US military officials say he is believed to speak for factions of the rebel group, though his exact ties to the Taliban leadership have not been determined.

Suicide assaults are far less frequent in Afghanistan than by insurgents opposed to US-led forces in Iraq, although senior Afghan officials have spoken in recent months of Al Qaeda operatives entering the country to stage attacks.

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