At least 26 killed in Kabul bomb claimed by Tale­ban

Spi­ral­ing in­se­cu­rity as resur­gent Tale­ban ramp up of­fen­sive

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

At least 26 peo­ple were killed and 41 wounded yes­ter­day af­ter a Tale­ban-claimed car bomb struck a bus car­ry­ing govern­ment em­ploy­ees through a Shi­ite neigh­bor­hood in Kabul, rais­ing fears of sec­tar­ian vi­o­lence in the Afghan cap­i­tal. The as­sault came as a pres­i­den­tial spokesman said the Tale­ban also killed at least 35 civil­ians in an at­tack on a hos­pi­tal in cen­tral Ghor prov­ince over the week­end. The deadly at­tacks un­der­score spi­ral­ing in­se­cu­rity in Afghanistan as the resur­gent Tale­ban ramp up their of­fen­sive across the coun­try, while se­cu­rity forces strug­gle to con­tain them.

In yes­ter­day’s blast the bus was car­ry­ing em­ploy­ees of the min­istry of mines, pass­ing from western Kabul to the down­town min­istry dur­ing rush hour, in­te­rior min­istry spokesman Najib Dan­ish told AFP. It was struck by the car bomb as it passed through a busy area of the cap­i­tal that is home to many Shi­ite Hazaras, a per­se­cuted eth­nic mi­nor­ity. An AFP pho­tog­ra­pher at the scene saw mul­ti­ple bod­ies and wounded peo­ple in the street, sur­rounded by shat­tered glass as se­cu­rity forces cor­doned off the area.

The bus’s charred re­mains were left smok­ing in the mid­dle of the road as the wounded were rushed to hos­pi­tals in am­bu­lances as well as pri­vate cars and taxis. “It was a huge ex­plo­sion, my house nearly col­lapsed,” a neigh­bor­hood res­i­dent who gave his name as Mostafa told AFP, adding that the street was “filled with hu­man flesh and blood”. “It was hor­ri­ble,” said shop­keeper Momin. “It is a crowded area-many of my friends and other shop­keep­ers are ei­ther killed or wounded.”

The Tale­ban claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for the blast, which came just be­fore 7 am. The group rarely claims at­tacks with high civil­ian ca­su­al­ties, but does fre­quently tar­get govern­ment em­ploy­ees. Afghan pres­i­den­tial spokesman Shah Hus­sain Mur­tazawi put the toll at 26 dead and 41 wounded. At a press con­fer­ence, Mur­tazawi also said at least 35 peo­ple were killed in the hos­pi­tal at­tack over the week­end.

All the vic­tims were civil­ians, Mur­tazawi said, with­out spec­i­fy­ing if they were pa­tients or staff. “This is a cruel crime against hu­man­ity,” he added. He did not elab­o­rate, and of­fi­cials say phone lines are down in Tay­wara district, cap­tured by the mil­i­tants over the week­end. The Tale­ban have de­nied the claim and re­ports they torched the hos­pi­tal, though a spokesman said parts of the build­ing were dam­aged in fight­ing. Ghor is a poor, moun­tain­ous prov­ince that has been rel­a­tively safe in the past but shares a bor­der with the Tale­ban-in­fested prov­inces of Hel­mand and Farah.

Afghan forces con­trol 59.7 per­cent of the coun­try, ac­cord­ing to a US watch­dog’s re­port is­sued in May af­ter the win­ter lull in fight­ing, up slightly from the pre­vi­ous quar­ter. But the in­sur­gents have ramped up their of­fen­sive across the coun­try since launch­ing their so-called “spring of­fen­sive” ear­lier this year.

Yes­ter­day’s at­tack in Kabul came as the Hazara com­mu­nity had planned to hold a demon­stra­tion in the same neigh­bor­hood to mark the one-year an­niver­sary of twin bomb­ings that killed 84 peo­ple in an at­tack claimed by Is­lamic State. They had agreed to post­pone the demon­stra­tion over se­cu­rity fears and af­ter meet­ing with Pres­i­dent Ashraf Ghani on Sun­day.

The Tale­ban have car­ried out sec­tar­ian at­tacks in the past, though they have been rare in Sunni-ma­jor­ity Afghanistan through­out its decades of war. The rise of IS, which has fre­quently tar­geted Shi­ites, has fu­elled the spec­tre of more such as­saults, with fears Mon­day that Hazaras had been the tar­get of the car bomb rather than the govern­ment em­ploy­ees.

Oth­ers sug­gested the politi­cian Mo­ham­mad Mo­haqeq, whose home is nearby, could have been the tar­get. Kabul is reg­u­larly rocked by sui­cide bombs and as­saults. A re­cent UN re­port showed that at­tacks on the cap­i­tal ac­counted for nearly one-fifth of all civil­ian Afghan ca­su­al­ties in the first half of 2017. Many died in a sin­gle dev­as­tat­ing at­tack in late May when a truck bomb ex­ploded, also dur­ing the morn­ing Kabul rush hour, killing more than 150 peo­ple and in­jur­ing hun­dreds.

The bloody toll for the first six months of 2017 has un­set­tled the govern­ment and put in­creas­ing pres­sure on Ghani, who con­demned yes­ter­day’s at­tack. NATO’s com­bat mis­sion in Afghanistan ended three years ago, hand­ing sole re­spon­si­bil­ity to the coun­try’s se­cu­rity forces, which have also suf­fered spi­ral­ing ca­su­al­ties as they try to beat back the Tale­ban.

KABUL: Footwear of vic­tims are seen on the ground as Afghan res­i­dents in­spect the site of a car bomb at­tack.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kuwait

© PressReader. All rights reserved.