KABUL, Afghanistan, May 12, 2009 – As soon as they heard the news of the suicide bombers Sunday, a coalition Special Operations team in southern Afghanistan sprang into action.

The team rescued, treated and medically evacuated 19 civilians after two suicide bombers detonated themselves in the Gereshk bazaar in Helmand province, injuring 20 and killing nine. Six of the victims killed by the suicide bombers were Afghan National Policemen and Afghan soldiers.

“Yesterday afternoon, two suicide [improvised explosive devices] were used against the [Afghan National Police] in Gereshk,” said a team leader with Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan. “There was an ambush from a vehicle and motorcycles, coordinated with a suicide IED on the taxi station/ANP checkpoint.”

The initial attack occurred on the outskirts of the Gereshk bazaar, the team leader said. An Afghan police Special Weapons and Tactics unit responded to the suicide attack, secured the area and loaded the wounded into their trucks. They began to move the wounded to a local hospital on the opposite side of the bazaar.

“While they slowed down to move through the bazaar, a second suicide bomber stepped out in the middle of the first and second vehicles in the convoy and detonated,” the team leader said. “The suicide bomber had posted himself in a mosque downtown in the bazaar.”

Coalition personnel acted as a quick reaction force after the second explosion. They moved into the area, secured it and medics began providing emergency care for the injured. The casualties were loaded up and brought to a nearby coalition firebase for treatment and medical evacuation.

At the site of the explosion, 20 people, including civilians, Afghan police and Afghan soldiers were wounded in the attacks. Nine people, including three shoppers at the bazaar, were killed.

Some of the casualties were taken to a British-run hospital in Helmand province, some to Dutch- and U.S.-run hospitals in Oruzgan province, and some were taken for treatment at Kandahar Airfield, according to the doctor.

The status of the wounded is unknown. In accordance with Islamic tradition, the dead were returned to their families for burial as quickly as possible.

“The militants continue to show their total disregard for the lives of the Afghan people,” a coalition spokesperson said. “Thanks to the professionalism and dedication of the Afghan and coalition medical personnel, we were able to save lives, despite this heinous act.”

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