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Taliban claims responsibility for deadly airport blast

The latest violence in Afghanistan comes on the heels of a deadly weekend attack demonstrating anti-American sentiment is at an all-time high. NBC's Ali Abawi reports.

 

Updated at 8:11 a.m. ET: A suicide car bomber struck early Monday at the gates of Jalalabad airport in eastern Afghanistan, killing nine people in a large blast, officials said.

Among the dead were six civilians, two airport guards and one soldier, Mohammad said. Another six people were wounded, he said.

An AP photographer saw at least four destroyed cars at the gates of the airport.


The Afghan Taliban claimed responsibility for the suicide attack, that they also say killed a number of U.S. soldiers and members of the Afghan interior ministry, a spokesman told NBC News.

"Our suicide bomber carried out suicide attack at a time when the U.S. troops opened the main entrance for change of the night time shift at the airport. Besides American soldiers, a number of Afghanistan interior ministry personnel working (with) the U.S. troops were also killed in the attack," the Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told NBC News.

He said it was revenge of the desecration of holy Quran allegedly by U.S. forces at the Bagram airbase.

But NATO forces spokesman Capt. Justin Brockhoff said that no international forces were killed in the early morning attack and that the installation was not breached by the blast.

Escalating violence
The blast comes a day after demonstrators hurled grenades at a U.S. base in northern Afghanistan, and a gun battle left two Afghans dead and seven NATO troops injured Sunday in the escalating crisis over the burning of Muslim holy books at an American airfield.

Violence toward Americans in Afghanistan continues as eight soldiers were wounded during a protest. NBC's Atia Abawi reports.

More than 30 people have been killed, including four U.S. troops, in six days of unrest. Still, the top U.S. diplomat in Afghanistan said the violence would not change Washington's course.

"Tensions are running very high here, and I think we need to let things calm down, return to a more normal atmosphere, and then get on with business," Ambassador Ryan Crocker told CNN's "State of the Union."

"This is not the time to decide that we're done here," he said. "We have got to redouble our efforts. We've got to create a situation in which al-Qaida is not coming back."

Story: Eight US soldiers wounded in Afghan NATO base attack

The attack on the base came a day after two U.S. military advisers — a lieutenant colonel and a major — were found dead after being shot in the head in their office at the Interior Ministry in the heart of the capital. The building is one of the city's most heavily guarded buildings, and the slayings raised doubts about safety as coalition troops continue their withdrawal.

The incident prompted NATO, Britain and France to recall hundreds of international advisers from all Afghan ministries in the capital. The advisers are key to helping improve governance and preparing the country's security forces to take on more responsibility.

A manhunt was under way for the main suspect in the shooting — an Afghan man who worked as a driver for an office on the same floor as the advisers who were killed, Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqi said. He did not provide further details about the suspect or his possible motive.

Story: Afghan officer sought in connection with US slayings

The Taliban claimed that the shooter was one of their sympathizers and that an accomplice had helped him get into the compound to kill the Americans in retaliation for the Quran burnings.

President Obama's apology to Afghanistan for the burning of Qurans at a U.S. base may become a campaign issue. NBC's Andrea Mitchell reports.

Afghanistan's defense and interior ministers were to visit Washington this week, but they called off the trip to consult with other Afghan officials and religious leaders on how to stop the violence, Pentagon press secretary George Little said. The Afghan officials had planned to meet with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey.

The protesters in Kunduz province in the north threw hand grenades to express their anger at the way some Qurans and other Islamic texts were disposed of in a burn pit last week at Bagram Air Field, north of Kabul.

 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Parwiz / Reuters

Angry afghans attacked U.S. bases after reports of Quran desecration.