Suicide bomber targets Afghan hospital, 7 NATO troops wounded

Terrorist dressed in a doctor's white coat manages to escape security guards before detonating bomb.

Seven NATO troops, described by local officials as Americans, were wounded in a thwarted suicide attack at a city hospital in eastern Afghanistan, while Afghan forces in the west recaptured a town that fell to Taliban militants. The suicide bomber, wearing a doctor's white coat, was initially stopped by Afghan police on Tuesday as he entered the compound of the main government hospital in the city of Khost, where about 150 people had gathered for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to open an emergency ward. The bomber ran off as he was being questioned, and NATO troops shot him several times before one soldier "wrestled him to the ground, restraining him long enough to allow the crowd of people to move safely away," a statement from the Western military alliance said. That soldier was able to break free before the bomber detonated his explosive and sustained only minor injuries, but two other wounded troops were evacuated to a NATO base for treatment, the statement said. The bomber died in the blast. "The people were running everywhere and it was difficult at first to figure out what was happening," Cpl. Anthony Rush, who witnessed the attack, was quoted as saying in the statement. The alliance did not give the troops' nationalities, in accordance with policy. However, Khost provincial Gov. Arsalah Jamal identified them as Americans, and said one hospital employee also was wounded. Most of the NATO forces in eastern Afghanistan are American. The blast left a shallow crater in the earth a few meters behind the site of the ceremony and left shredded flesh hanging from the backs of guests' chairs. Last year, Taliban-led militants launched about 140 suicide attacks, mostly targeting foreign and Afghan forces and officials of President Hamid Karzai's elected government - part of a wave of violence that made 2006 the bloodiest year since the ouster of the hardline regime in 2001. In western Farah province on Tuesday, about 200 Afghan police and soldiers, backed by NATO, retook the remote town of Bakwa that was overrun by Taliban the previous day, provincial Gov. Muhajuddin Baluch said. They met no resistance as the militants had reportedly left the area soon after they staged their attack and police fled. It was the second time this month that the government has lost control of a district in the region. Taliban militants overran Musa Qala in nearby Helmand province on Feb. 1, defying a peace deal between the government and elders last year that capped weeks of fighting. The government is negotiating with elders to get them to persuade the militants to leave.