Kabul car bomb kills 12 in­clud­ing 3 Amer­i­cans


At least 12 peo­ple in­clud­ing three U. S. civil­ian con­trac­tors were killed Satur­day when a sui­cide car bomber struck a NATO con­voy, of­fi­cials said, un­der­lin­ing the pre­car­i­ous se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion in the Afghan cap­i­tal.

The Tal­iban de­nied re­spon­si­bil­ity for the blast, which struck out­side a civil­ian hos­pi­tal in Kabul fol­low­ing a wave of fa­tal bomb­ings ear­lier this month that rat­tled the city.

The pierc­ing ex­plo­sion in a crowded residential neigh­bor­hood re­ver­ber­ated around Kabul and left a trail of dev­as­ta­tion, in­clud­ing twisted wreck­age of burn­ing ve­hi­cles with of­fi­cials seen piling up blood­ied bod­ies in a po­lice pickup truck.

The blast killed 12 peo­ple and wounded 66 oth­ers, health min­istry spokesman Wahidul­lah Ma­yar said on Twit­ter.

Se­nior health of­fi­cial Sayed Kabir Amiri con­firmed the toll from the at­tack, which comes as Tal­iban in­sur­gents es­ca­late their an­nual sum­mer of­fen­sive against the U.S.-backed Afghan gov­ern- ment amid fal­ter­ing peace talks.

“One Res­o­lute Sup­port (NATO) U.S. con­trac­tor was killed and two Res­o­lute Sup­port U.S. con­trac­tors died of wounds as a re­sult of an ... at­tack on their con­voy in Kabul,” NATO said in a state­ment.

“In­stead of seiz­ing an op­por­tu­nity to em­brace peace, in­sur­gents have again cho­sen vi­o­lence in an at­tempt to re­main rel­e­vant,” a sep­a­rate NATO state­ment said.

‘Why are they killing us?’

U. S.- led NATO forces ended their com­bat mis­sion in Afghanistan in De­cem­ber last year, although a 13,000-strong resid­ual force re­mains for train­ing and counter-ter­ror­ism oper­a­tions.

Tal­iban spokesman Zabi­ul­lah Mu­jahid said the group was not be­hind the at­tack, which prompted the heav­ily for­ti­fied U.S. em­bassy, lo­cated a few kilo­me­ters away in the cen­ter of Kabul, to sound its emer­gency sirens and a “duck and cover” alarm warn­ing.

The in­sur­gents are known to dis­tance them­selves from at­tacks that re­sult in a large num­ber of civil­ian ca­su­al­ties.

“The mu­jahideen had no plan for an at­tack in Kabul to­day,” Mu­jahid said.

Satur­day’s blast comes amid height­ened se­cu­rity in Kabul af­ter a wave of bomb­ings ear­lier this month that killed more than 50 peo­ple and wounded hun­dreds, prompt­ing fury from Pres­i­dent Ashraf Ghani who blamed Pak­istan for fail­ing to rein in Tal­iban in­sur­gents.

The surge in lethal at­tacks has left the war-scarred city on edge.

Tem­pers flared at the scene of Satur­day’s bomb­ing, with a young Afghan man fight­ing back tears as he screamed: “Why are they killing us?”

The Tal­iban are step­ping up their sum­mer of­fen­sive, launched in late April, amid a bit­ter lead­er­ship dis­pute fol­low­ing the an­nounce­ment of the death of long­time leader Mul­lah Omar.

Mul­lah Akhtar Man­sour, Omar’s long­time trusted deputy, was named as the new Tal­iban chief in late July in an ac­ri­mo­nious power tran­si­tion.

Al-Qaida chief Ay­man al-Zawahiri re­cently pledged his group’s al­le­giance to Man­sour, in a move which could bol­ster his ac­ces­sion amid the grow­ing in­fight­ing within the Afghan mil­i­tant move­ment.

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