Taliban's bombings target presidential election

KABUL, Afghanistan — A suicide car bombing outside the U.S. military headquarters in Afghanistan's capital Saturday was the most serious indication yet of the Taliban's designs to disrupt Thursday's presidential election through violence.

The Islamist militia, which is fighting NATO and Afghan forces for control in wide swaths of the country, has fired rockets into Kabul in recent days, but the attack Saturday was the most brutal in the heart of the capital in six months. At least seven Afghans were killed, and more than 90 people were wounded.

President Hamid Karzai, the front-runner in the election, said in a statement that the attack was an attempt by the nation's enemies to "create fear among the people."

Guarding voting sites and securing roads to the polling places has become the top priority for NATO forces. Of the 17 million registered voters, a turnout of more than 50 percent would be considered high, some U.S. officials say.

Diplomats said that windows were shattered inside the compound but that damage was relatively light, with barriers mitigating much of the force of the blast. Western military spokesmen said that "several" international troops were injured but that none was killed. One U.S. military official said it appeared that no Americans were seriously injured.

Fighting propaganda: The Obama administration is establishing a new unit within the State Department for countering militant propaganda in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Proposals are being considered to give the team up to $150 million a year to spend on local FM radio stations and for expanded cell phone service.

Pakistan bombing: A suicide bomber killed at least five people in Pakistan's Swat Valley on Saturday in the first major act of violence in that region since the military offensive against the Taliban there this spring, security officials said.

Deaths

As of Saturday, 707 U.S. troops have died in the Afghanistan war. Identifications as reported by the U.S. military and not previously published:

Marine Sgt. William J. Cahir, 40, Washington; combat Thursday; Helmand province.

Army Sgt. Jerry R. Evans Jr., 23, Eufaula, Ala.; explosion Aug. 7; Wardak province.

Marine Lance Cpl. Bruce E. Ferrell, 21, Perdido, Ala.; combat Monday; Helmand province.

Marine Capt. Matthew C. Freeman, 29, Richmond Hill, Ga., combat Aug. 7; Kapisa province.

Marine Lance Cpl. Javier Olvera, 20, Palmdale, Calif.; combat Aug. 8; Helmand province.

Marine Lance Cpl. Patrick W. Schimmel, 21, Winfield, Mo.; combat Aug. 9; Helmand province.

Army Staff Sgt. Tara J. Smith, 33, Nashville, N.C.; noncombat incident Aug. 4, died Aug. 8; Bagram.

Army Spc. Matthew K.S. Swanson, 20, Lake Forest, Calif.; died Aug. 8 at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., after vehicle rollover July 19; Logar province.

Taliban's bombings target presidential election 08/15/09 [Last modified: Saturday, August 15, 2009 11:15pm]

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