Taliban suicide bombers kill 7 in Kabul, wound 21

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Taliban suicide bombers kill 7 in Kabul, wound 21
FILE - In this Oct. 4, 2009 file photo, Pakistani Taliban commander Latif Mehsud sits with fellows in Sararogha in south Waziristan in Pakistan. The U.S. military in Afghanistan has handed over three Pakistani detainees to Islamabad, including one who Pakistani intelligence officers said is a senior Taliban commander long wanted by the Pakistani government. The transfer of Mehsud, a close confidante of the former head of the Pakistani Taliban, underlines the improving relations between the U.S., Pakistan and Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Ishtiaq Mahsud, File)
In this Oct. 4, 2009 photo, Pakistani Taliban commander Latif Mehsud sits with fellows in Sararogha in south Waziristan in Pakistan. U.S. troops are holding the senior Pakistani Taliban commander they captured in Afghanistan a week ago, an Afghan provincial official said Friday, Oct. 11, 2013. (AP Photo/Ishtiaq Mahsud)
Afghan men look on amid broken glass and debris at the site of a suicide attack in Kabul on October 1, 2014. Two Taliban suicide bombers hit army buses in Kabul on October 1 with initial reports of six people killed in the twin attack, police said, one day after the new Afghan government signed a deal for US troops to stay in the country. The Taliban, who strongly opposed the US agreement, claimed responsibility for the two early-morning attacks on vehicles carrying military employees to work in the capital. AFP PHOTO/SHAH Marai (Photo credit should read SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images)
A suicide bombers foot is seen at the site of a blast in Kabul on October 1, 2014. Two Taliban suicide bombers hit army buses in Kabul on October 1 with initial reports of six people killed in the twin attack, police said, one day after the new Afghan government signed a deal for US troops to stay in the country. The Taliban, who strongly opposed the US agreement, claimed responsibility for the two early-morning attacks on vehicles carrying military employees to work in the capital. AFP PHOTO/SHAH Marai (Photo credit should read SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images)
Afghan security forces inspect near an army bus at the site of a suicide attack in Kabul on October 1, 2014. Two Taliban suicide bombers hit army buses in Kabul on October 1 with initial reports of six people killed in the twin attack, police said, one day after the new Afghan government signed a deal for US troops to stay in the country. The Taliban, who strongly opposed the US agreement, claimed responsibility for the two early-morning attacks on vehicles carrying military employees to work in the capital. AFP PHOTO/SHAH Marai (Photo credit should read SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images)
An Afghan policeman keeps watch at the site of a suicide attack in Kabul on October 1, 2014. Two Taliban suicide bombers hit army buses in Kabul on October 1 with initial reports of six people killed in the twin attack, police said, one day after the new Afghan government signed a deal for US troops to stay in the country. The Taliban, who strongly opposed the US agreement, claimed responsibility for the two early-morning attacks on vehicles carrying military employees to work in the capital. AFP PHOTO/SHAH Marai (Photo credit should read SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images)
Afghan investigators inspect the site of a suicide attack in Kabul on October 1, 2014. Two Taliban suicide bombers hit army buses in Kabul on October 1 with initial reports of six people killed in the twin attack, police said, one day after the new Afghan government signed a deal for US troops to stay in the country. The Taliban, who strongly opposed the US agreement, claimed responsibility for the two early-morning attacks on vehicles carrying military employees to work in the capital. AFP PHOTO/SHAH Marai (Photo credit should read SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images)
Afghan investigators inspect near an army bus at the site of a suicide attack in Kabul on October 1, 2014. Two Taliban suicide bombers hit army buses in Kabul on October 1 with initial reports of six people killed in the twin attack, police said, one day after the new Afghan government signed a deal for US troops to stay in the country. The Taliban, who strongly opposed the US agreement, claimed responsibility for the two early-morning attacks on vehicles carrying military employees to work in the capital. AFP PHOTO/SHAH Marai (Photo credit should read SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images)
Afghan firefighters wash a road at the site of a suicide attack in Kabul on October 1, 2014. Two Taliban suicide bombers hit army buses in Kabul on October 1 with initial reports of six people killed in the twin attack, police said, one day after the new Afghan government signed a deal for US troops to stay in the country. The Taliban, who strongly opposed the US agreement, claimed responsibility for the two early-morning attacks on vehicles carrying military employees to work in the capital. AFP PHOTO/SHAH Marai (Photo credit should read SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images)
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, center, walks with teachers during his visit to the Amani High School in Kabul on Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014. Afghanistan swore in Ghani Ahmadzai as its second elected president on Monday, embarking on a new era with a national unity government poised to confront a resilient Taliban insurgency by signing an agreement with the United States that would guarantee a continuing American military presence. (AP Photo/Wakil Kohsar, Pool)
Afghanistan's president Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, left, is sworn in by with Chief Justice Abdul Salam Azimi, during his inauguration ceremony at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday Sept. 29, 2014. He replaces Hamid Karzai in the country's first democratic transfer of power since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion toppled the Taliban. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)
Afghan National Security Adviser Hanif Atmar (2R) and NATO's Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistan Maurits Jochems (R) hold their documents after signing the Status of Forces Agreement documents as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani (C) and Afghanistan's new Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah (2L) look on at the Presidential Palace in Kabul on September 30, 2014. Afghanistan and the United States on September 30 signed a deal to allow some US troops to stay in the country next year, signalling that new President Ashraf Ghani intends to mend frayed ties with Washington. Hamid Karzai, who stepped down as president on September 29, refused to sign the deal in a disagreement that symbolised the breakdown of Afghan-US relations after the optimism of 2001 when the Taliban were ousted from power. Afghan National Security Adviser Hanif Atmar and US Ambassador James Cunningham inked the document at a ceremony in the presidential palace in Kabul as Ghani stood behind the pair looking on. AFP PHOTO/SHAH Marai (Photo credit should read SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images)
Afghan National Security Adviser Hanif Atmar (2R) and US Ambassador to Afghanistan James Cunningham (2L) hold their documents after signing a deal to allow some US troops to stay in Afghanistan at the Presidential Palace in Kabul on September 30, 2014. Afghanistan and the United States on September 30 signed a deal to allow some US troops to stay in the country next year, signalling that new President Ashraf Ghani intends to mend frayed ties with Washington. Hamid Karzai, who stepped down as president on September 29, refused to sign the deal in a disagreement that symbolised the breakdown of Afghan-US relations after the optimism of 2001 when the Taliban were ousted from power. Afghan National Security Adviser Hanif Atmar and US Ambassador James Cunningham inked the document at a ceremony in the presidential palace in Kabul as Ghani stood behind the pair looking on. AFP PHOTO/SHAH Marai (Photo credit should read SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images)
BADAKHSHAN, AFGHANISTAN - SEPTEMBER 30: Taliban militants pose as they surrender their weapons on September 30, 2014, in Afghanistan's Badakhshan province. (Photo by Badakhshan Governorate/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
BADAKHSHAN, AFGHANISTAN - SEPTEMBER 30: Taliban militants are seen as they surrender their weapons on September 30, 2014, in Afghanistan's Badakhshan province. (Photo by Badakhshan Governorate/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
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By AMIR SHAH and RAHIM FAIEZ

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - Taliban suicide bombers struck two buses carrying Afghan soldiers in Kabul early Wednesday, killing seven people and wounding 21, just a day after the signing of a key U.S.-Afghan security pact.

The long-awaited deal allows U.S. forces to remain in the country past the end of 2014, ending the uncertainty over the fate of foreign troops supporting Afghans as they take over the fight against the Taliban insurgency.

Wednesday's attacks involved two suicide bombers targeting buses carrying Afghan troops in the country's capital.

The first attacker hit a bus with Afghan National Army officers in west Kabul, killing seven and wounding 15, said the city's criminal investigation police chief Mohammad Farid Afzali.

The second attacker, who was also on foot, blew himself up in front of a bus in northeastern Kabul, wounding at least six army personnel, Afzali said.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attacks, saying the security pact with America has only motivated the group and given the Taliban "more morale" to fight the enemy.

"They need to give more sacrifices to make their homeland free," Mujahid said, referring to Taliban fighters.

In a separate statement to media, the Taliban denounced the Bilateral Security Agreement as an "American plot" and said that "such fake documents will never hold back the lawful jihad," or holy war.

In Kabul, dozens of Afghan security forces sealed off the attack sites, littered with broken glass, as military ambulances took the victims to hospital. Worried Afghans passed by, on their way to work.

Under the security pact, along with a separate deal signed with NATO, about 10,000 American troops and several thousand more from other NATO countries will stay to train and advise Afghan forces after the international combat mission ends on Dec. 31.

More than a decade after U.S. forces helped topple the Taliban in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, Afghanistan is still at war with the Islamic militant group, which regularly carries out attacks, mainly targeting security forces.

Seven Dead After a Suicide Bomb Attack in the Afghan Capital

There are also serious questions about the ability of the Afghan security forces to take on the militants, even with a residual U.S. force remaining in the country.

In other violence, two police officers were killed when a suicide bomber targeted a police vehicle late Tuesday in Lashkar Gah, the capital of southern Helmand province. Five policemen were also wounded in the attack, Omar Zwak, the spokesman for the provincial governor said Wednesday.

The U.S.-Afghan pact was long in the making. U.S. officials had first warned their Afghan counterparts that if the security accord was not signed by the end of 2013, the Pentagon would have to start planning for a full withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.

But when the year ended, the White House moved back the deadline, saying then-President Hamid Karzai needed to sign off within weeks. Karzai surprised U.S. officials by ultimately saying he would not sign the accord and would instead leave that task for his successor.

But the results of the race to replace Karzai took months resolve, finally coming to a conclusion on Monday with the swearing in of Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai as Afghanistan's second elected president.

Ghani Ahmadzai signed the security agreement Tuesday, nearly one year after the White House's initial deadline.

Later Wednesday at a ceremony in Kabul, Ghani Ahmadzai officially introduced his former rival for the presidency, Abdullah Abdullah, as the country's new chief executive, a post akin to prime minister.

Abdullah pledged to "serve the people and the nation" and urged Afghans to have faith in the new administration.

Abdullah's post was created after he and Ghani Ahmadzai struck a U.S.-brokered power-sharing agreement last month after a prolonged dispute over alleged voting fraud in June's presidential runoff.

___

Associated Press writer Mirwais Khan contributed to this report from Kandahar, Afghanistan.


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