In this picture taken Sunday, May 15, 2011, U.S. Army flight medic SGT Jaime Adame, right, and an unidentified United States Marine help Marine LCPL Chris Propst of South Carolina, center, who was wounded in an insurgent attack to a waiting medevac helicopter from the US Army's Task Force Lift 'Dust Off', Charlie Company 1-214 Aviation Regiment at a 'hot' landing zone under fire north of Sangin, in the volatile Helmand Province of southern Afghanistan
KABUL: A suicide attacker blew up an explosives-packed car Monday at the gates of an Italian military base in Herat, officials said, while a second explosion ripped through a busy downtown intersection in the normally secure city, which is preparing to be handed over to Afghan control in July.
The attacks killed at least four people. Italy's defense minister said no Italians died.
Herat, western Afghanistan's largest city, is one of seven areas scheduled to be handed over to Afghan control in July as the first step toward transitioning nationwide security responsibility to Afghan forces by 2014. Attacks are rare inside the city, though there are a number of volatile districts on its outskirts.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen visited Herat last week and said that the transition was on track for the security handover. While in the city, he walked a mile (1.6 kilometers) through the central bazaar with the provincial governor.
The two blasts in Herat city killed a policeman and three civilians, said Raouf Ahmadi, a spokesman for the regional police commander. He said more than 20 people were wounded.
Gunfire followed the attack at the Italian base, but Ahmadi said it was from guards shooting out from the compound. Officials had earlier reported a gunbattle between militants and Italian soldiers. The area was calm by midday.
The second explosion was at an intersection about a mile (two kilometers) from the base that is packed with businesses and traffic. Ahmadi said most of the casualties were from the second blast but did not provide more details.
A NATO spokesman confirmed the attack near the Italian base, but said there were no reports of NATO casualties. British army Maj. Tim James said initial reports were of a car bomb that exploded outside without breaching the defense of the base and small arms fire.
The NATO base in Herat houses an Italian provincial reconstruction team, a collection of military and sometimes civilian workers who are tasked with helping build up local government and infrastructure.
The attack follows a brazen strike on Saturday, when a suicide bomber wearing a police uniform detonated a vest laden with explosives at a provincial governor's compound in northern Afghanistan, killing two top Afghan police commanders and wounding the German general who commands NATO forces in the north. Two Germans and two other Afghans died.
In Kabul, meanwhile, NATO officials apologized for an airstrike that inadvertently killed a group of women and children, saying that they thought there were only insurgents inside the targeted compound when they ordered the strike.
Accidental deaths of civilians from coalition military operations are an ongoing source of tension between Afghans and NATO. The international coalition has sharply reduced the number of civilians killed in its operations but Afghan officials say any civilian deaths from allied strikes are unacceptable.
Southwest regional commander U.S. Marine Maj. Gen. John Toolan issued an official apology early Monday morning on behalf of top coalition commanders Gen. David Petraeus and Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez for the killing of civilians in Saturday's attack.
"I want to offer my sincere apologies for the nine civilians who were killed during the incident in Nawzad district, Helmand province," Toolan said. The Afghan government has said 14 civilians were killed, including at least 10 children and two women.