KABUL, Afghanistan – A suicide car bomber targeting a convoy of foreign troops exploded about 200 yards outside the U.S. Embassy in Kabul on Thursday, killing at least four Afghan bystanders as people entered the compound for a Thanksgiving Day race.
At least 18 others were wounded in the morning attack, said Abdullah Fahim, a health ministry spokesman. Police officer Abdul Manan said the explosion was set off by a suicide bomber in a Toyota Corolla.
No U.S. Embassy personnel were killed or injured in the blast, an embassy statement said.
The Interior Ministry said the bombing targeted a convoy of foreign troops but it had no additional information.
The blast happened on the last day of a visit by a United Nations Security Council delegation. The U.N. had warned its staff in Afghanistan of possible terrorist attacks coinciding with the visit.
The U.S. Embassy was hosting a Thanksgiving Day run scheduled for 9 a.m. Americans and other Westerners were entering the embassy compound when the bomb went off -- at about 8:30 a.m. -- sending some participants sprinting for the embassy's inner gates.
"I was about 30 or 40 yards inside the (outer) gate. There was a large explosion. I felt the shock wave, though it wasn't all that strong," said Danny Cutherell, a 26-year-old aid worker from Virginia. "We were about 200 yards (meters) from the blast when it went off, but we were behind the embassy wall and that protected us."
"It's just scary to be that close to it," he said.
Embassy employees are not allowed to leave the embassy's compound in Kabul, so employees there often organize sporting events and other parties and invite Americans who live in Kabul. The Thanksgiving run has become an embassy tradition.
After a 90-minute delay, about 60 people ran the race. The course wound through the embassy's high, razor-wire-covered walls, past armed security guards and large diesel generators that power the compound.
The winner, Casey Johnson, ran the approximately 5-kilometer course in just over 19 minutes. Johnson, a marathon runner, ran a Thanksgiving Day fun run last year in Brooklyn. "This is quite a bit different," he said.
David Johnson, who has been in Afghanistan for 18 months but is scheduled to leave next week, said the blast was a "capstone" on his time in the country.
"You come for a friendly event like a Thanksgiving run, and it turns into a fiasco," said Johnson, 37, a San Diego native who helps run the CURE International hospital in Kabul. "But one thing I noticed is that for people here, it (the bombing) is like a nonevent. People are laughing and carrying on. There are kids running around."
In a separate incident in southern Afghanistan, two British Royal Marines were killed while on a foot patrol. The Ministry of Defense said the marines came under "sustained enemy fire" while on patrol near Lashkar Gah in Helmand province.
The latest deaths bring the number of British personnel who have died in Afghanistan since 2001 to 128.
Insurgent attacks in Kabul have been rare this year, although militants have launched a few spectacular assaults, including one targeting the Indian Embassy on July 7 that killed 60 people and left over 140 others wounded.