KABUL : A heavy security clampdown was enforced in the Afghan capital after the bombing of a US firm left at least nine people dead, including three Americans, and raised new fears about security just weeks before the country's historic elections.
The attack Sunday on security contractor DynCorp was claimed by spokesman linked to the former Taliban Islamic fundamentalist regime and Al-Qaeda, and analysts said more attacks could be expected in the run-up to October 9 polls.
A truck loaded with wood and packed with explosives was detonated outside DynCorp's office in the Shar-e-Naw district, home to many aid agencies and foreign firms. DynCorp provides Afghan President Hamid Karzai's bodyguards and trains the fledgling police force.
Ken McKillop, spokesman for the NATO-led peacekeeping force, said that three US citizens and three Afghan nationals treated by the International Security and Assistance Force (ISAF) had died in the attack.
However, the spokesman said he could not comment about casualties who may have been taken to other medical facilities in the city and could not confirm the total death toll from the attack.
The Afghan government said Sunday that three Nepalese citizens also died in the attack. A Western security source also confirmed to AFP Monday that three Nepalese were among the dead.
At least 22 people were wounded in the blast, according to a toll compiled by AFP from hospitals around Kabul.
The attack was the worst in Kabul since December 28 last year and the second major bomb attack over the weekend. At least 10 people, most of them youths, died when a bomb exploded at a religious school in southeastern Afghanistan late Saturday.
US troops Monday patrolled the streets of the Wazir Akbar Khan district, home to the US and many other foreign embassies.
Meanwhile in the Shar-e-Naw district, the streets leading to the blast site were blocked off and large numbers of NATO-led peacekeeping troops backed by tanks patrolled the streets.
Shar-e-Naw is packed with United Nations offices and the headquarters of many other aid agencies. Afghan police were stationed outside UN offices waving away vehicles and preventing them from stopping.
The US embassy and other Western governments have asked their staff to restrict their movements and avoid crowded shopping streets and restaurants popular with foreigners for fear of another attack.
"This was a well-predicted attack and a well-chosen target. I think it's prudent to expect to see more. We anticipate possibly a series and a campaign of attacks," said Nick Downie, security coordinator for the Afghanistan NGO Security Organisation.
The Afghan capital has been bracing itself for a large-scale bomb attack in recent weeks in the run-up to the elections.
Afghan intelligence officials supported by NATO-led peacekeeping troops found 530 kilograms of explosives as well as detonating devices and arrested two militants last week outside Kabul.
As the elections have drawn closer, security across the country has worsened and a string of attacks on election workers has left 12 dead since May.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan Monday urged international forces to shield election workers in Afghanistan after the two weekend bombings.
"The secretary general is deeply concerned by the violent attacks," Annan's spokesman said in a statement.
"The secretary general calls on the government of Afghanistan, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force for Afghanistan (ISAF), and the Coalition forces to take the necessary safety and security measures to support those working on the ongoing electoral process," he said.
The Taliban, thrown out of power by a US-backed military campaign in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, have vowed to disrupt the polls, in which over 10 million people have registered to vote.
Taliban-led insurgents have been waging a guerrilla insurgency in the south and southeast. They have also mounted sporadic attacks in other parts of the country.