A car bomb has exploded near a German convoy in the northern section of the Kabul airport. The attack coincides with a visit by German Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere to Afghanistan.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the predawn bombing, which damaged two vehicles but caused no ISAF casualties and delayed commercial flights only temporarily. The German military said a suicide bomber had targeted one of its convoys returning to the facility.
"The vehicle detonated too early and didn't reach the convoy," Lieutenant Colonel Latondra Kinley, a spokeswoman for the International Security Assistance Force said. "There were no ISAF casualties."
The entire convoy, including the damaged vehicles, continued to the airport. The explosion occurred in the military section of the Kabul airport, said General Sayed Ghafar Sayedzada, chief of the Afghan police's criminal investigations department.
In an email to media, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid called the attack a suicide bombing against foreign forces in Afghanistan.
"Ten German soldiers were killed and three of their vehicles were damaged," Mujahid wrote, contradicting official, press and eyewitness accounts.
In October, a similar car bomb attack killed two civilians outside a compound housing foreign workers near the airport.
When the attack occurred Wednesday morning, Thomas de Maiziere was in Mazar-i-Sharif, the last active of Germany's three biggest field camps, for the defense minister's traditional pre-Christmas visit. He had just come from a holiday visit to soldiers in Kosovo.
"The security situation remains unstable," de Maiziere said upon learning of the attack. "However, it is no reason to deviate from our course. The security situation in Afghanistan will likely never become what we in Germany are accustomed to."
Germany currently has 3,400 soldiers in Afghanistan. By the end of 2014, NATO plans to end its combat operations in the country, leaving behind 8,000 to 12,000 soldiers to advise and train the Afghan military. Germany plans to leave behind 600 to 800 for the mission "Resolute Support."
Toward that end, de Maiziere has asked Afghan President Hamid Karzai to sign a security agreement with the United States. However, Karzai, who had initially endorsed the pact, has since said that he would prefer to wait until after the election of a new president in April, citing, among other things, foreign troops not being accountable to Afghan laws. US officials have said the country could withdraw all troops if Karzai does not sign.
mkg/ (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)