Kabul, Feb 27: A Taliban suicide car bomber targeting Nato troops at an airport in eastern Afghanistan killed nine people on Monday, on a seventh day of violence over the burning of the Koran at a US airbase.
The insurgents also said they were behind an attempt to poison foreign troops, as the death toll from unrest and protests that spread to even usually peaceful parts of the war-ravaged country hit about 40.
Six civilians, an Afghan soldier and two local guards were killed in the bomb attack on the military base at Jalalabad airport, but Nato troops escaped unhurt.
The Taliban said it was revenge for the Koran burning.
“The foreign forces have insulted our religion and this attack was revenge,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told AFP.
The rebels also claimed that an “Afghan cook” working on their behalf poisoned the food of Nato troops at another base in the same province of Nangarhar.
Nato's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) launched an investigation after “traces of bleach” were found in fruit and coffee, a spokesman said.
“There were no injuries, no fatality. The investigation is ongoing.” said Master Sergeant Nicholas Conner.
The US embassy has been in lockdown since the violence erupted and has warned of a “heightened potential threat to American citizens in Afghanistan”.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Sunday that the deadly protests over the burning of Korans by US soldiers “must stop”.
“We deeply regret the incident that has led to this protest, but we also believe that violence must stop and the hard work for building a more peaceful and secure Afghanistan must continue.” she told a news conference.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai went on television on the same day to appeal for calm.
Karzai condemned “with the strongest words” the treatment of Islam's holy book and said the perpetrators should be punished, but told his countrymen, “Now that we have shown our feelings it is time to be calm and peaceful.”
He said he respected the emotions of Afghans upset by the Koran burning in an incinerator pit at Bagram airbase, north of Kabul, but urged them not to let “the enemies of Afghanistan misuse their feelings”.