A massive explosion has hit Jalalabad Airport in eastern Afghanistan. At least nine people have been killed in the incident which comes amid violence sparked by the Koran burning at a US military base.
Police in Nangarhar province have confirmed that "a very strong" explosion has gone off at the entrance to the airport on Monday morning. The attacker drove up to the gates of the airport shortly after dawn and detonated his explosives, Associated Press news agency reports.
At least nine people have died and 12 more wounded, but the number of casualties could rise even higher. Among the dead were six civilians, two airport guards and one soldier, all of them Afghans, local authorities said. NATO says none of their troops was harmed in the attack.
An AP photographer confirmed seeing at least four destroyed cars at the airport gates. NATO forces have cordoned off the area as the search and rescue operation continues.
The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was in retaliation for the burning of the Koran by NATO forces.
George Little, a spokesman for the US Defense Department, has said that the US military will remain fully committed to its mission in Afghanistan and will continue to build trust with Afghans despite the recent deadly violence. US officials have already apologized for the book-burning incident.
A day earlier at least two Afghans were killed and seven NATO troops injured as the country was swept by riots caused by the burning of copies of the Koran and other holy books. More than 30 people, including four US troops, have been killed in the six days of unrest.
Due to the situation in the country, senior Afghan officials have canceled their trip to Washington, the Pentagon announced. The visit, scheduled for this week, was forestalled because the officials need to stay in the country to tackle the ongoing violence and protect the NATO employees. The delegation includes Afghanistan’s Interior and Defense Ministers.