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Other News: Afghan Bombing Kills 6 Italian Soldiers

September 17, 2009 at 12:00 AM EDT
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In other news, a bombing in Kabul killed at least six Italian soldiers and 10 Afghan civilians, while a government panel in Afghanistan determined a NATO airstrike killed 30 civilians earlier this month.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: In other news today, a suicide car bombing in Afghanistan’s capital killed a half-a-dozen Italian soldiers and 10 Afghan civilians. The Taliban claimed responsibility.

We have a report from Nick Paton Walsh of Independent Television News.

NICK PATON WALSH: Just 300 meters from the U.S. embassy, the heart of what’s meant to be Kabul’s safe zone, the Taliban struck yet again. A convoy of Italian troops on the road to the airport hit by a suicide blast. Two vehicles were flipped over, and six soldiers died. Italy has lost a total of 20 troops since they came here in 2004.

A gunshot, panic, even in the aftermath.

AFGHAN MAN: Right after the bang, I rushed out and saw a vehicle belonging to NATO totally destroyed, and all personnel inside the vehicle were killed.

NICK PATON WALSH: Ten civilians also killed, and 55 injured. Kabul’s now been hit badly three times in about a month. And NATO’s new mantra — to protect civilians from the Taliban — was challenged today.

This blast came as the final results emerged of a presidential election that was seen as make-or-break by NATO, but is now being widely condemned as fraudulent. Yet President Karzai, with 54 percent of the vote, felt victorious enough over his main challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, to claim this today.

HAMID KARZAI, president, Afghanistan: I believe firmly, firmly in the integrity of the election, in the integrity of the Afghan people, and in the integrity of the government in that process.

NICK PATON WALSH: Mr. Karzai admitted not everyone kept to the rules.

HAMID KARZAI: There were some government officials who were partial towards me very, very much. There were over government officials who were partial towards Dr. Abdullah very, very much.

NICK PATON WALSH: But European officials have said a third of votes could have been fraudulent.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In Italy, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said he wants to withdraw Italy’s 3,100 troops from Afghanistan “as soon as possible.”

Also today, an Afghan commission reported that 30 civilians and 69 Taliban fighters died in a NATO air strike this month. U.S. planes were called in when militants hijacked a pair of fuel tankers. The report said that was a mistake. It also blamed the Taliban for putting civilians at risk.

To Iraq now, where Vice President Biden has announced that, if its government asks American troops to leave earlier than planned, the U.S. will go along. Biden today wound up a visit to Baghdad. Iraqi leaders have talked of holding a referendum on the issue in January. On the current timetable, all American forces will be out of Iraq by the end of 2011.

One of Southeast Asia’s most wanted al-Qaida leaders was killed in Indonesia today. Noordin Mohammed Top had been implicated in every major attack there since 2002. Police raided his hideout today near Solo in central Java, Indonesia’s main island, and a gunfight erupted. After several hours, an explosion blew apart the house where the suspects were holed up. Noordin and three others were found dead.

The U.S. House has voted to place all student loans for college under public control. The bill would also greatly expand aid for needy students. Democrats pushed the measure today to take private lenders out of the program; Republicans complained about another government takeover of a private-sector function.

On Wall Street today, the Dow Jones industrial average lost more than 7 points to close under 9,784. The Nasdaq fell 6 points to close at 2,126.