KABUL, Afghanistan — U.S. military successes in Iraq have forced sophisticated and well-trained insurgents to pour into Afghanistan instead, the Afghan defense minister said Tuesday.
In a demonstration of the increasingly deadly attacks unleashed by militants, a roadside bomb exploded near a civilian taxi packed with passengers, killing nine Afghans, including two children, a provincial police chief said.
The defense minister, Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak, said terrorists who would have once fought in Iraq have been "diverted" to Afghanistan.
"The success of coalition forces in Iraq and also some other issues in some of the neighboring countries have made it possible that there is a major increase in the foreign fighters," Wardak told a news conference. "There is no doubt that they are (better) equipped than before. They are well trained, more sophisticated, their coordination is much better."
The top U.S. commander in eastern Afghanistan, Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Schloesser, told The Associated Press last month that he is seeing a spike in the number of foreign militants _ including Arabs and Chechens _ flowing into Afghanistan. He said militant Web sites have been encouraging fighters to go to Afghanistan instead of Iraq.
"I can't prove they are coming from Iraq to Afghanistan, but I've seen it on Web sites that that's what they're being told to do," Schloesser said.
The bomb attack that killed nine Afghan civilians was apparently intended to hit NATO troops, said Juma Gul Himat, the provincial police chief in Uruzgan province.
Himat blamed the Taliban for the attack and said the road where the bomb exploded is often used by NATO troops. The taxi had been traveling toward the provincial capital.
Most bomb attacks in Afghanistan target Afghan or NATO soldiers, but the blasts are far more likely to kill ordinary civilians.
Violence has risen steadily in Afghanistan since late 2005. More than 4,700 people _ mostly militants _ have been killed in insurgency related-violence this year, according to an Associated Press count of figured provided by Afghan and Western officials.
U.S.-led troops killed five insurgents in central Ghazni province on Monday during a raid to disrupt a foreign fighter network, the coalition said Tuesday.
The coalition also said one of its service members was killed and several others were wounded in southern Afghanistan on Monday when their vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb. No other information, including the service members' nationalities or precise location of the attack, was released.