Car Bombing at NATO Base Thwarted as Gates Visits Afghanistan

NATO-led troops thwarted a bombing Tuesday at their base in Kabul after a man with an explosive-laden car tried to enter, and Afghan intelligence agents arrested a senior Taliban spokesperson after he crossed the border from Pakistan.

The bomber was arrested and NATO ordnance experts destroyed the vehicle outside the base, said the official, an alliance spokesperson said on condition of anonymity because of alliance rules.

The site of the foiled bombing in eastern Kabul was several miles from the place where Defense Secretary Robert Gates was meeting with U.S. commanders and Afghan officials.

In southern Helmand province, Ghulam Nabi Mulakhail, the province's police chief, reported that 13 suspected Taliban militants were killed and 17 others were wounded during a clash Monday with NATO troops.

NATO had reported that one British soldier was killed and several wounded in the clash when its forces attacked a militant base. The alliance had not given an estimate of militant casualties.

In the past year, the Taliban have launched a record number of attacks, and some 4,000 people, most of them militants, have died in the insurgency-related violence, according to a tally by the AP based on reports from Afghan, NATO and coalition officials.

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Meanwhile, Afghan intelligence agents arrested a purported Taliban spokesman after he crossed into the country from Pakistan, an agency official said Tuesday.

Dr. Muhammad Hanif, who often contacted the news media claiming to speak for the hard-line militia, was arrested at the border town of Torkham on Monday, said Sayed Ansari, the spokesman for Afghanistan's intelligence service. Two people traveling with him were also detained.

Hanif initially told investigators that his name was Abdulhaq Haqiq, Ansari said.

"But during the investigations we discovered that he is Dr. Hanif," Ansari told The Associated Press. "He also confessed to it himself."

Ansari would not say where Hanif was being held.

Hanif was one of two spokesmen who often contacted journalists in Pakistan and Afghanistan on behalf of the Taliban. His phones were not responding Tuesday, and the other spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.

Hanif would convey what he said were statements from Taliban chief Mullah Omar, and was the reported liaison for an e-mail interview conducted by a Pakistani newspaper with the fugitive leader and published earlier this month.

In the interview, Omar was quoted as saying that he has not seen Usama bin Laden since the Taliban lost power in Afghanistan five years ago.

Hanif would also comment on militant attacks and fighting in the north, center and east of the country. As recently as Thursday, Hanif had contacted an AP reporter by text message to deny a NATO claim that it had killed as many as 150 insurgents in a battle near the Pakistan border.