Four Americans were killed and 17 people, 16 of them American, were wounded when a Taliban suicide bomber dressed as a labourer blew himself up at a Nato airbase in on Saturday.
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In a , US defense secretary Ash Carter said: “I am deeply saddened to learn that an explosion early this morning at Bagram airfield in Afghanistan has resulted in US casualties. An apparent suicide bomber has taken the lives of two US service members and two US contractors working on the base.
“The explosion wounded 16 other US service members and one Polish soldier participating in our Nato mission.”
Before Saturday, had been killed by hostile action in Afghanistan in 2016. The Bagram attack was the most deadly in the country since , when were killed in a blast at the same airfield. According to the website , the US military has suffered 2,391 casualties in Afghanistan since 2001.
Those killed and wounded in Saturday’s attack were not immediately named.
Carter said: “I want to express my sincere condolences to the families of the fallen, and I want to reassure the loved ones of those injured that they are getting the best possible care. Force protection is always a top priority for us in Afghanistan, and we will investigate this tragedy to determine any steps we can take to improve it.
“For those who carried out this attack, my message is simple. We will not be deterred in our mission to protect our homeland and help Afghanistan secure its own future.”
The attacker was reportedly standing in a queue with labourers at Bagram airfield, north of Kabul, when he detonated the explosives.
“An explosive device was detonated on Bagram airfield resulting in multiple casualties,” the Nato-led mission to Afghanistan said in an initial statement. “Response teams at Bagram continue to treat the wounded and investigate the incident.”
Waheed Sediqqi, a spokesman for the Parwan provincial governor, said the bomber detonated a suicide vest after entering the heavily protected site, the largest US base in the country.
The attack underlines the foreign policy challenge that will face US president-elect Donald Trump when he takes office in January. It followed in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif late on Thursday night, which killed four people and wounded more than 100. That attack was in retaliation for airstrikes near the northern city of Kunduz last week that .
Barack Obama had hoped to have all US forces out of Afghanistan by the end of his term, but was forced to abandon that aim as Afghan forces struggled to contain the Taliban insurgency.
Under current plans, 8,400 US troops will remain as part of the Nato-led operation and a separate US counter-terrorism mission after Obama decided to slow down a planned reduction of the force, leaving it to his successor to decide future strategy.
The Taliban’s spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said Saturday’s attack, which had been planned for four months, had caused heavy casualties, killing 23 Americans and wounding 44. The movement often exaggerates the number of casualties its operations cause.