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Suicide bomber attacks German troops near airport in Afghan capital

By Mirwais Harooni

KABUL (Reuters) - A suicide bomber attacked a convoy of German troops near the international airport in the Afghan capital, Kabul, on Wednesday, a military official said, but there were no immediate reports of casualties.

Confirmation of the attack from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) came soon after a Reuters witness reported a large blast near the sprawling and heavily guarded facility, which is used by civilians and the military.

"We can confirm reports of a suicide bomber who attempted to attack an ISAF convoy today," ISAF spokeswoman Lieutenant Colonel Latondra Kinley said.

"The attacker was killed and there were no ISAF casualties to report."

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in a text message sent by spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid. He claimed two German vehicles were destroyed and "10 soldiers were killed and wounded". The Taliban routinely exaggerate casualty numbers from attacks on government and foreign targets.

A bomb had been planted in a four-wheel-drive vehicle on the northern edge of the airport, Afghan deputy interior minister General Ayoub Salangi posted on Twitter. There were no casualties, he said.

The airport is home to one of the NATO-led force's most important bases, the ISAF Joint Command, which is responsible for the day-to-day management of foreign troop operations in Afghanistan.

Attacks on the heavily guarded airport are relatively rare and the facility represents an ambitious target for insurgents.

The attack comes amid heightened insecurity in Kabul following a surprise announcement by Afghan President Hamid Karzai last month that he would delay signing a crucial security pact designed to shape the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan after the NATO-led combat mission ends next year.

The United States has said it would consider withdrawing all its troops if the pact was not signed soon, although James Dobbins, the senior U.S. diplomat for Afghanistan and Pakistan, said on Tuesday the Obama administration was "nowhere near" deciding on a full withdrawal after 2014.

(Additional reporting by Abdul Aziz Ibrahimi, Hamid Shalizi and Dylan Welch; Writing by Dylan Welch; Editing by Paul Tait)

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