The deadliest insurgent attack since the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 destroyed a bus full of police instructors at Kabul's busiest transportation hub on Sunday, killing 35 people and wounding 52, officials said.
The enormous suicide blast, which raised the spectre of an increase in Iraq-style bombings with heavy casualties, was at least the fourth attack against a bus carrying Afghan police or army soldiers in Kabul in the last year. The blast sheared the vehicle's metal sides and roof off, leaving only a charred skeleton.
"Never in my life have I heard such a sound," said Ali Jawad, a 48-year-old selling phone cards nearby. "A big fireball followed. I saw blood and a decapitated man thrown out of the bus."
Condemning the attack, President Hamid Karzai said the "enemies of Afghanistan" were trying to stop the development of Afghan security forces, a key component of the US-NATO strategy of eventually handing over security responsibilities to the Afghan government, allowing Western forces to leave.
A purported Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousef Ahmadi, said a Taliban suicide bomber named Mullah Asim Abdul Rahman caused the blast. Ahmadi called an Associated Press reporter from an undisclosed location. His claim could not be verified.
Zemeri Bashary, the spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said late today that 35 were killed and 52 wounded in the blast. Karzai's office said 22 police instructors died, indicating that 13 of the dead were civilians.