At least nine people are dead after a car bomb was detonated at a NATO airbase in Jalalabad, according to Afghan police. The Taliban has claimed the suicide attack was revenge for the recent burning of several copies of the Koran by U.S. soldiers, which have incited virulent protests beginning Feb. 22 across Afghanistan.
The attack occurred early Monday morning at the entrance to the military airport as workers were arriving. The victims are all reported to be Afghan nationals. Over twenty others were also wounded, including 19 Afghan civilians and law enforcement officers and four NATO soldiers, according to a NATO spokesperson, Reuters reported.
Two individuals were sighted in the vehicle used in the attack, according to a NATO spokesperson, the New York Times reported. There has been no confirmation of the Taliban's involvement in the attack, but NATO officials say the militant political group often claims responsibility for such actions to promote its agenda, regardless of actual culpability.
In the moment, with the tense situation that we see all over Afghanistan, they use every opportunity to claim that actions are actually executed by them, planned by them or leading into their direction, said Brigadier General Carsten Jacobson, spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
Monday's car bombing is the latest in a string of violence directed at NATO troops and facilities that has erupted out of the public outrage over the Koran burnings. On Sunday, a grenade was thrown into NATO base, wounding at least six American service members. A nationwide manhunt remains in progress to find the suspect behind the shooting of two American soldiers.
President Barack Obama issued a written apology to Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Thursday, characterizing the incident as inadvertent. In a Feb. 22 interview with PBS News Hour, Associated Press correspondent Heidi Vogt reported that copies of the Koran had been confiscated and flagged for incineration due to writing in the margins that contained extremist messages promoting a very radical form of Islam and correspondences between detainees at NATO holding facility. A full investigation of the incident remains in progress.