5 dead in Taliban suicide blast on Kabul airport road
At least five people were killed Monday when a Taliban suicide car bomber struck near the entrance of Kabul’s international airport, the latest in a wave of lethal bombings in the Afghan capital.
The Taliban, which claimed responsibility for the blast, have stepped up attacks amid a bitter leadership transition following the announcement of the death of their leader Mullah Omar.
Observers say the upsurge in violence represents a bid by new leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour to distract attention from the crisis as planned peace talks falter.
“The explosion occurred at the first checkpoint of Kabul airport,” said deputy Kabul police chief Sayed Gul Agha Rouhani.
Five civilians were killed and 16 wounded including children, said Kabul police spokesman Ebadullah Karimi.
The toll was confirmed by Kabul CID chief Fraidoon Obaidi, who said the explosion was caused by a suicide car bomb.
Smoke billowed from the scene of the explosion, which occurred during the busy lunchtime period.
An AFP photographer saw pieces of charred flesh strewn around the checkpoint, where passengers undergo the first round of body checks before entering the airport.
Ambulances with wailing sirens rushed to the area and were seen removing bodies from the area, which was strewn with the twisted and mangled remains of vehicles.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said two vehicles belonging to foreign coalition forces were the target of the attack.
The attack follows a barrage of deadly bombings in the Afghan capital on Friday, which struck close to an army complex, a police academy and a U.S. special forces base and killed at least 51 people.
They were the first major attacks since Mullah Akhtar Mansour was named as the new Taliban chief in an acrimonious power transition after the insurgents confirmed the death of longtime leader Mullah Omar.
Some top leaders of the Islamist insurgency, including Omar’s son and brother, have refused to pledge allegiance to Mansour, saying the process to select him was rushed and even biased.
Tayeb Agha, the head of the Qatar political office set up in 2013 to facilitate talks with Kabul, resigned last week in protest at Mansour’s appointment and two more members of the office followed suit.
The wave of violence underscores Afghanistan’s volatile security situation amid a flailing peace process.
The first face-to-face talks aimed at ending the 14-year insurgency took place last month between the Afghan government and the Taliban in the Pakistani hill town of Murree.
The Taliban distanced themselves from a second round of talks scheduled for the end of July, after the announcement of Omar’s death.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani discussed initiating another round of talks in a telephone call Sunday to Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, a senior official in Islamabad told AFP without elaborating.
Experts say insurgents are stepping up attacks as Mansour tries to distract attention from the internal rifts.
The uptick in violence highlights growing insecurity in the country as Afghan forces face their first summer fighting season without full NATO support.
A U.N. report published last week said civilian casualties in Afghanistan hit a record high in the first half of 2015.
The report said 1,592 civilians were killed, a six percent fall from last year, but the number of injured jumped four percent to 3,329.
Afghan Slams Pakistan over
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani lambasted neighboring Pakistan on Monday over a recent wave of insurgent attacks in the capital Kabul that killed at least 56 people.
“The last few days have shown that suicide bomber training camps and bomb- producing factories which are killing our people are as active as before in Pakistan,” Ghani told a news conference.
“We hoped for peace but we are receiving messages of war from Pakistan.”
Pakistan has historically supported the Taliban insurgents and many Afghans accuse it of nurturing militant sanctuaries on its soil in the hope of maintaining influence in Afghanistan.
Since coming to power last year Ghani has courted the Pakistanis, expending substantial domestic political capital in the process, in hopes Islamabad will persuade the Taliban to come to the negotiating table.
But his comments on Monday are the strongest yet against the neighboring country.
“In my telephone call with Pakistan prime minister (on Sunday), I told Pakistan to see terrorism in Afghanistan the same way it sees terrorism in Pakistan,” he said, referring to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
“I ask the Pakistani government if the mass killings of Shah Shaheed had happened in Islamabad and the perpetrators were in Afghanistan, what would you do?” he said, referring to a Kabul neighborhood that suffered a fatal truck bombing on Friday.
An Afghan policeman stands guard as smoke and flames rise from the site of a huge blast that struck near the entrance of Kabul’s international airport, Monday, Aug. 10.