PUL-E-SAYAD, Afghanistan – Shortly before he rammed his vehicle into an American military convoy, the young bearded homicide bomber waved at Sayed Najibullah to move away. As Najibullah sped off a huge explosion ripped through a U.S. armored vehicle, killing three American troops and three Afghan civilians.
But Najibullah lived to tell the story.
Tuesday's attack in the northern Kapisa province, which is a stronghold of insurgents loyal to the Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar north of Kabul, follows warnings from American military officials that more suicide attacks and roadside bombings can be expected as thousands of new U.S. troops join the fight this year.
Such attacks were up 25 percent in the first four months of 2009 compared with the same period last year.
The 22-year old Najibullah was riding a motorbike on a tree-lined village road just outside the bazaar in Pul-e-Sayad when he saw the suicide attacker in a white Toyota Corolla vehicle speeding in the opposite direction.
"He was young, bearded men, wearing a white cap," Najibullah said. "He slowed down, looked at me, and motioned with his hand at told me to get away fast."
The bomber did the same to the passengers of a rickshaw riding behind Najibullah.
At that moment Najibullah also heard the roaring engines of military vehicles coming from behind. And than the explosion happened.
His bike shook violently but Najibullah did not fall off. Shocked, he stopped to see what had taken place.
"I turned my head only to see fire and dust," Najibullah said. As the dust settled, he saw American soldiers running outside. Some lay on the ground.
Three U.S. troops died in the blast, said Tech. Sgt. Chuck Marsh, a U.S. military spokesman. Another was wounded. The troops served with NATO's International Security Assistance Force.
Three civilians also died and two others were wounded, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.
Such attacks are quite common across Afghanistan. Taliban and other insurgent groups regularly use suicide and roadside bombs in assaults on foreign and Afghan troops. According to military figures, 172 coalition forces were killed in such attacks last year — and far more Afghan civilians died.
As the conflict intensifies elsewhere in the country, U.S. troops called in airstrikes on groups of insurgents in the eastern Logar province Tuesday, killing 13 insurgents, the U.S military statement said.
Separately, in the eastern Khost province, a convoy of Afghan and American troops killed the driver of a car when the vehicle did not slow down in response to shouts to stop and warning shots, said Chief Petty Officer Brian Naranjo, a U.S. forces spokesman.
"They fired to stop the vehicle and killed the driver," Naranjo said.
In the south, U.S. forces said they killed eight Taliban fighters in a clash in Uruzgan province on Monday. The troops were on patrol when Taliban fighters attacked with small-arms fire and heavy machine-guns.
The coalition said two of its troops and three Afghan policemen were wounded, and that they were in stable condition.
Southern Afghanistan is the center of the Taliban-led insurgency, where thousands of new American troops will join the fight this year.
President Barack Obama hopes the new troops can turn the tide of the Taliban successes in the last three years.