KANDAHAR, Afghanistan – An explosion near a U.S. military vehicle in southern Afghanistan on Monday wounded four American troops, a U.S. military spokesman said, the latest in a series of bloody assaults on coalition forces.
The vehicle was hit on a highway near the main southern city of Kandahar (search). A local Afghan police chief said the blast was a suicide attack. The U.S. military confirmed it was a bombing, but gave no further details.
Spokesman Col. James Yonts told reporters in Kabul that the four wounded, one in a serious condition, were flown to a U.S. base in Kandahar for medical treatment.
Gen. Salim Khan, the deputy police chief for Kandahar city, said a suicide bomber had rammed a car full of explosives into the U.S. vehicle. The head of the attacker was found near the site of the blast and it appeared to be that of an Arab, he said.
"The U.S. vehicle was blown up in the suicide attack," Khan said.
He said at least three American troops were killed, but in a statement, the U.S. military said no U.S. service members had died.
An Associated Press reporter at the scene said he saw three American soldiers being carried on stretchers into a U.S. military helicopter. Two other U.S. helicopters were hovering overhead and several U.S. military vehicles also had arrived at the site.
Troops blocked the highway, which links Kandahar and the western city of Herat (search). Hundreds of Afghans who had been driving along the road looked on.
Three other bombs were found hidden on roadsides around Kandahar on Monday morning, a government official in the city said. All were defused, he said.
A bomb attack Sunday on an Afghan family's pickup truck just north of Kandahar killed a woman and wounded four others, including two children, said Khan, the deputy police chief. He said the attackers may have thought the four-wheel-drive vehicle belonged to the Afghan army as it was similar.
A purported Taliban (search) spokesman, Mullah Latif Hakimi, said in a telephone call to AP that the group was responsible for Monday's bombing and that the suicide attacker was an Afghan.
Hakimi often calls news organizations to claim responsibility for attacks on behalf of the Taliban. His information has sometimes proven untrue or exaggerated, and his exact tie to the group is unclear.
Taliban-led rebels have stepped up attacks in an apparent effort to sabotage legislative elections due in September. Five American troops have died in attacks this month.
On June 1, a suspected Al Qaeda homicide bomber killed 20 people at the funeral of an anti-Taliban cleric in Kandahar, one of the worst terror attacks here since the Taliban was ousted in 2001.