KABUL, Afghanistan — A suicide bomber detonated a truck loaded with explosives at a U.S. military outpost in Wardak province on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, wounding 77 American soldiers and about two dozen Afghan civilians, NATO announced Sunday. Two Afghans were killed.
Word of the Saturday afternoon attack broke as the United States was preparing for a day of solemn ceremonies commemorating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
NATO downplayed the impact of the explosion at Combat Outpost Sayed Abad, emphasizing in its announcement that none of the wounded had suffered life-threatening injuries and that most of the injured were expected to return to duty "shortly." NATO said the force of the blast had been absorbed by protective barriers and that damage was limited to the perimeter wall and a "maintenance facility."
But accounts from Afghan officials suggested that a catastrophe had been narrowly averted.
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Alam Gul, a local council chief who lives about six miles from the site of the explosion, said he was at home when he heard the blast.
"The houses which were located near the base have been badly damaged," he said.
Gul said the truck's explosive cargo had been hidden beneath a load of firewood. Shahidullah Shahid, a spokesman for the Wardak governor, said officials did not know how much explosive the truck was carrying.
NATO said the attack took place at around 5:30 p.m. Saturday.
The Taliban took responsibility for the attack in a statement posted on their website, claiming they had killed 50 U.S. soldiers — an exaggeration typical of Taliban announcements.
Wardak province, west of Kabul, the nation's capital, has witnessed growing Taliban activity in the last two years. The Sayed Abad district was where 30 U.S. special forces and eight Afghan soldiers were killed last month when their Chinook helicopter was shot down by Taliban militants.
The attack was a reminder that 10 years after invading U.S. troops helped oust the hardline Taliban regime, security remains precarious in most of Afghanistan.