Suicide bomber targets Afghan airport; 9 killed

KABUL, Afghanistan — 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.

The Taliban said the attack on the airport, which serves both civilian and international military aircraft, was revenge for the burning of Muslim holy books at an American military base.

The attacker drove up to the gates of the airport shortly after dawn and detonated his explosives in a “very strong” blast, said Nangarhar provincial police spokesman Hazrad Mohammad.

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.

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.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, saying a suicide car bomber had driven up to the airport gate and detonated his explosives as international forces were changing from night to morning guard duty.

“This attack is revenge against those soldiers who burned our Quran,” Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said in an email.

The explosion comes after nearly a week of deadly protests in Afghanistan in the escalating crisis over the burning of Muslim holy books. More than 30 people have been killed in the violence, including four U.S. soldiers.

On Sunday, demonstrators hurled grenades at a small U.S. base in northern Afghanistan and the ensuing gun battle left two Afghans dead and seven NATO troops injured.

Still, the top U.S. diplomat in Afghanistan said Sunday that 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.

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