Taliban Car Bomb Targeting Elite Afghan Force Kills at Least 12

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KABUL, Afghanistan — A large Taliban explosion targeting an elite Afghan militia force that has worked closely with the C.I.A. killed at least a dozen people on Saturday in the eastern part of the country, officials said.

Gen. Faizullah Ghairat, the police chief of Khost Province, which borders Pakistan, said that members of the Khost Protection Force, a militia trained and paid for by the United States, were returning from a mission and had stopped at a crowded bazaar when a car bomb exploded.

There were conflicting reports about the death toll. Najib Danish, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry put the number of the dead at 18, while another senior security official said 13 people had been killed.

It was not immediately clear how many of the casualties were civilians or members of the militia, known as K.P.F.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which came on the first day of Ramadan, the holiest month of the Muslim calendar. In a statement to the news media, the group’s spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said that the attack had been planned for months and that it had targeted “the strike force that is trained by the American C.I.A.”

“The bomb was too big — there were no debris left from the suicide car, and those killed were in unrecognizable condition,” General Ghairat said. “Bodies cut into pieces were scattered around. The K.P.F. members had stopped for shopping; they already finished their shopping.” He added, “I saw the vegetables and fruits in their cars when I got there.”

The K.P.F., trained by the Central Intelligence Agency, carries out night raids and targeted operations in areas along the Pakistani border that fall under the influence of Sarajuddin Haqqani, the Taliban’s deputy supreme leader and chief of the ruthless Haqqani Network.

The force has been repeatedly accused of abuses and civilian casualties, and despite reports that it was put under the control of the Afghan intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security, Afghan officials said the militia still reported to the United States.

“They are directed and run by the Americans, paid and trained by the Americans,” General Ghairat said.