Bomber in Ambulance Detonates at Afghan Checkpoint; 95 Dead

Bomber in Ambulance Detonates at Afghan Checkpoint; 95 Dead
A wounded man is assisted at the site of an explosion in downtown Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Jan. 27, 2018. (AP Photo/Massoud Hossaini)

KABUL, Afghanistan — A suicide bomber driving an ambulance coasted through a security checkpoint in Afghanistan’s capital on Saturday by telling police he was taking a patient to a nearby hospital and then detonated his explosives at a second checkpoint, killing at least 95 people and wounding 158 more in an attack claimed by the Taliban, authorities said.

The powerful explosion, which came a week after Taliban militants killed 22 people at an international hotel in the capital, Kabul, was felt throughout the city and covered the blast area in smoke and dust. Dozens of vehicles were damaged or destroyed, and several shops, including some selling antiques and photography equipment, were decimated.

NTD Photo
People help carry an injured man to the hospital following a suicide attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday Jan. 27, 2018.  (AP Photo/ Rahmat Gul)
NTD Photo
People help carry an injured man to the hospital following a suicide attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday Jan. 27, 2018. (AP Photo/ Rahmat Gul)

Windows at the nearby Jamhuriat government hospital were shattered, and its walls were damaged. People ran out to help, and ambulances arrived to transport dozens of wounded people to hospitals.

The Interior Ministry said four suspects in the deadly bombing, which occurred near the European Union and Indian consulates, had been arrested and were being questioned, but it didn’t elaborate.

“The majority of the dead in the attack are civilians, but of course we have military casualties as well,” ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said.

A Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, claimed responsibility for the bombing, which sent thick, black smoke into the sky from a site near the government’s former Interior Ministry building.

NTD Photo
Wounded children are assisted at the site of a deadly suicide attack in the center of Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Jan. 27, 2018. (AP Photo/Massoud Hossaini)
NTD Photo
Wounded civilians are transferred to a hospital by a police vehicle after a deadly suicide attack in the center of Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Jan. 27, 2018.  (AP Photo/Massoud Hossaini)

 

It has been a month of relentless attacks across Afghanistan, with the Taliban and an Islamic State group affiliate making alternate claims of responsibility. The brutality and frequency of the attacks, including one in December at a Shiite cultural center, has shattered Afghanistan’s usually quiet winter, when fighting normally slows down.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres quickly condemned Saturday’s attack, saying through a spokesman that “Indiscriminate attacks against civilians … can never be justified.” U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan John R. Bass called the attack “senseless and cowardly.”

And the International Committee of the Red Cross seethed that the ambulance attack was “unacceptable and unjustifiable,” saying in a tweet: “The use of an ambulance in today’s attack in #Kabul is harrowing.”

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a statement: “The Taliban’s use of an ambulance as a weapon to target civilians represents inhumane disregard for the people of Afghanistan … and is a violation of the most basic international norms.”

It was the second Taliban attack in a week on high-security targets in the city.

Last weekend, six Taliban militants attacked Kabul’s Intercontinental Hotel, leaving 22 people, including 14 foreigners, dead. About 150 guests fled the gun battle and fire sparked by the assault by climbing down bedsheets tied to balconies. The U.S. Department of State said American citizens were killed and injured in that attack.

 

Afghan security forces, whose competency has been uneven, have struggled to fight the Taliban since the U.S. and NATO formally ended their combat mission in 2014.

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