This post has been corrected. See note at bottom for details.
REPORTING FROM KABUL, AFGHANISTAN -- Insurgents mounted several attacks across Afghanistan Saturday, including a car bomb that hit a NATO military vehicle in downtown Kabul, killing as many as 13 Americans.
NATO officials said that five troops and eight civilian contractors were killed in the attack.
An attacker in an Afghan military uniform in the southern part of the country also turned his weapon on members of the U.S.-led military coalition, killing two before he was killed in return fire.
And in a third incident in eastern Afghanistan, a female suicide bomber wearing a burqa tried to enter a government building. She was killed, according to local news reports, when guards became suspicious of her behavior and opened fire, prompting her to detonate her explosives.
She was the only casualty in the incident, which occurred near the local branch of the National Directorate of Security, the country’s spy agency, according to Abdul Sabor Allayar, Kunar province’s deputy police chief. Two agency employees and two civilians were wounded.
The Kabul car bombing took place at 11:30 a.m. on Darulaman Road, one of the capital’s busiest streets, which runs past parliament and Darulaman Palace -– or “abode of peace” -- built in the 1920s in a bid to modernize the country. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in text messages to media organizations.
The Afghan Interior Ministry reported that the Kabul blast killed at least three Afghan civilians and one policeman.
The ministry added in a statement that it strongly condemned the suicide attack, prayed for a quick recovery of the injured and extended its condolences to the families of the victims.
According to the Associated Press, two NATO rescue helicopters airlifted casualties away from the Kabul attack site as heavy black smoke poured from a military bus engulfed in a fireball. After the fire was extinguished, three black body bags were carried from the vehicle’s burning wreckage, the news service added.
General Ayob Salangi, Kabul’s police chief, said it wasn’t immediately clear how many were wounded in the car bomb attack in part because NATO forces sealed off the site.
“They wouldn’t let Afghan forces get close to the area where the incident occurred,” he said.
On other fronts, the coalition said Saturday that its troops and Afghan security forces captured two leaders of the Haqqani network in a joint operation in Paktika province along the Pakistan-Afghan border on Friday.
One leader had provided insurgent fighters with funding, weapons, supplies and safe havens, the coalition said, while the other coordinated attacks against Afghan forces.
[Corrected, 12:09 p.m., Oct. 29, 2011: An earlier version of this post quoted a U.S. official as saying that all 13 NATO casualties were American troops. NATO officials later said that five troops and eight civilian contractors were killed in the attack.]
-- Hashmat Baktash and Mark Magnier. Times wires contributed to this report.
Photo: A. U.S. soldier at the scene of a car bombing in Kabul, Afghanistan. Credit: Muhammed Muheisen / Associated Press