KABUL -- A suicide bomb attack on an Afghan military bus killed four people here Sunday, as the Taliban appear to be stepping up attacks in the capital as NATO withdraws from Afghanistan and the country readies for a presidential election in April. The bombing happened just after 7 a.m. and targeted a bus carrying Afghan National Army staff, killing two soldiers and two civilians and wounding 22, Afghan Ministry of Defense spokesman Gen. Zahir Azimi said. Azimi said children were among the wounded in the attack, which happened on a busy road during the morning commute. Nearby shops were also damaged. "The ministry of defense strongly condemns the attack" Azimi said.
The Taliban quickly claimed responsibility for the attack, saying the bus was carrying Afghan air force employees and that 27 people on the bus were killed and wounded. The group routinely exaggerates the effects of their attacks. Sunday's attack is likely to increase jitters in the capital, coming about a week after insurgents killed 21 people at a Lebanese restaurant popular with foreigners and roughly two weeks after a similar bomb attack on another military bus in Kabul. Violence normally wanes in the winter, when many insurgents take refuge in Pakistan before the traditional summer fighting season. But this spate of violence has added to the turbulence already occurring in the Afghanistan. All international combat troops are scheduled to leave the country by Dec. 31, and a disagreement over a proposed security agreement that is key to keeping a residual foreign military presence in the country after that deadline has soured relations between Kabul and Washington. More than 12 years after the U.S. invaded Afghanistan following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Taliban and other insurgent groups are still carrying out regular attacks and clashing with Afghan security forces, and many worry a complete international military withdrawal could threaten gains made over the course of the war.