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Afghan civilians stop terror attack at U.S. base

Story Highlights

• Afghan interpreter, security guard prevent bombing, U.S. military says
• The driver was reaching for a cord when he was pulled from the vehicle
• Foiled attack comes at same time U.S. defense chief in Afghanistan
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KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) -- Two civilians thwarted an attempted terrorist attack Tuesday when a vehicle loaded with explosives attempted to crash through the front gate of a U.S. base in the Afghan capital, according to the U.S. military.

The two men, an interpreter and a security guard, dragged the apparent suicide bomber from the vehicle before he could detonate explosives, said Col. Tom Collins, the chief spokesman for U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

"I think it's a pretty amazing and heroic event," Collins said.

He said that at about 9 a.m. Tuesday (10:30 p.m. ET Monday) a driver crashed his vehicle into Camp Phoenix, the base where the Afghan National Army and police are trained. The driver reached for what appeared to be a cord to detonate a bomb, he said.

"Amazingly, a couple of Afghans who just happened to be on the scene there realized what was happening," Collins said.

"Anyone's inclination would have been to run away but these guys are genuine heroes," Collins said.

The area was immediately cordoned off while authorities waited for a bomb disposal team.

During the attempt to disarm it, the device went off. It's unclear how much or what kind of explosive material was used, Collins said. No U.S. or coalition troops were injured.

Not the first attack on base

In the past six months more than 70 allied troops -- mostly Canadian and British -- have died. About 70 U.S. troops also have been killed.

Because there has been so much violence in Afghanistan, Collins said his troops and the people who work near them are particularly alert.

"We're trying to control these attacks. We have a pretty high level of awareness. That's why [the interpreter and security guard] were able to act so quickly," he said, adding that the men may be honored in some fashion.

Asked if it's easy for someone to ram a car into a compound, Collins replied: "We're in a very large city here in the country of Afghanistan. There's lots of people driving around. This man just happened to get his vehicle along the entry control point."

Though Collins said attacks on bases the size of Camp Phoenix are rare, it's not the first time a suicide bomber has tried to attack soldiers close to the base.

Last summer a suicide bomber carrying 300 pounds of explosives killed two U.S. troops, the colonel said.

Strike on insurgent camp along border

The attacks comes on the heels of U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates' first visit to Afghanistan. (Read full story)

Gates arrived Monday and was scheduled to meet with Afghan officials and U.S. and NATO commanders to address the increased fighting against Taliban and al Qaeda terrorists. (Watch Gates assess situation in Afghanistan Video)

Around 6:55 a.m. Tuesday, Pakistani security forces carried out an airstrike on an insurgent hideout that had been under surveillance for several days in the Zamzola area of South Waziristan, in northwestern Pakistan near the Afghan border, a Pakistani army spokesman said.

According to the spokesman, intelligence sources confirmed that 25 to 30 suspected foreign terrorists and their local backers were occupying a complex of five compounds in the area.

The Pakistani spokesman said three of the five compounds were destroyed, killing at least 25 of the insurgents in the complex.

Last week, troops from NATO's International Security Assistance Force and the Afghan National Army killed as many as 150 insurgents along the mountainous border with Pakistan, NATO officials reported.

That same day U.S. National Intelligence Director John Negroponte told a Senate committee that al Qaeda leaders have a "secure hideout" in Pakistan.

The chief U.S. commander in Afghanistan Lt. Gen. Ken Eikenberry said Tuesday that in December, Taliban attacks have increased 200 percent. Pakistani officials denied the assertion. (Read full story)

NATO commanders have called for the coalition to have more manpower and equipment, and for leaders of each participating country to stop restricting their troops to relatively safer areas.


File photo: U.S. troops at Camp Phoenix, the base targeted by terrorists.



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