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Suicide bomber attacks Kabul’s diplomatic zone, five dead: Officials

The blast took place in Wazir Akbar Khan area of Kabul. The cause of the explosion and the extent of any damage was not known.

world Updated: Oct 31, 2017 21:05 IST
AFP
AFP
AFP, Kabul
Kabul blast,Afghanistan,Bakul
The Afghan interior ministry and police confirmed there was an explosion in the heavily fortified area but could not immediately provide further details.(File Photo)

A suicide bomber believed to be as young as 12 struck Kabul’s heavily fortified diplomatic quarter today and killed at least five people, showing that militants can still hit the heart of the city despite tighter security.

It was the first attack targeting the Afghan capital’s “Green Zone” since a massive truck bomb ripped through the area on May 31, killing or wounding hundreds, and prompting authorities to strengthen protection.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for today’s attack, which follows a spate of suicide assaults by Taliban and IS insurgents on security installations and mosques in recent weeks.

A Western security source told AFP the attacker appeared to have been targeting workers leaving an Afghan defence ministry facility inside the heavily protected zone.

Health ministry spokesman Ismail Kawoosi told AFP that at least five people had been killed and 20 wounded, including women.

“The suicide attack was carried out by an underage bomber, a boy we think 13 or 15 years old, killing at least four and wounding over a dozen more civilians,” interior ministry spokesman Najib Danish told AFP.

A police spokesman said the attacker may have been as young as 12.

Defence ministry spokesman Dawlat Waziri said the bomber “made it through the first checkpoint but was stopped at the second checkpoint and detonated”.

“We don’t know the target but it happened a few metres from the defence ministry’s foreign relations office. There were no casualties to our personnel,” Waziri said.

The attack is a setback for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani who had promised to beef up the security of the diplomatic zone after the truck bomb detonated outside the German embassy five months ago.

Ghani immediately ordered an investigation into how today’s attacker had been able to enter the supposedly secure area.

A Western security source told AFP he had repeatedly warned Afghan authorities about lax security at the checkpoint targeted by the bomber.

The attack struck the heart of the city’s diplomatic area, where many embassies and the offices of major international organisations including the United Nations and NATO’s Resolute Support mission are located.

“I was 100 metres away when the explosion happened and as I ran towards the site I saw several people lying in blood - one had been hit in the head and was moving. It was a horrible scene,” an eyewitness told TOLOnews.

Another witness told AFP: “A lot of people were dead and injured and there was no one to carry them away.”

AFP reporters heard a loud explosion around 4:00 pm (local time) just as workers would have been leaving their offices to go home, followed by the sirens of emergency services.

Many injured people were carried from the scene of the blast, put into ambulances and police pickup trucks and driven away.

US special charge d’affaires Hugo Llorens, America’s top diplomat in Afghanistan in the absence of an ambassador, condemned the “cowardly attack” in a tweet.

The last major assault in Kabul was on October 20 when a suicide bomber blew himself up inside a Shiite mosque during evening prayers, killing 56 and wounding 55.

That was followed by a suicide attack on a busload of Afghan army trainees that killed 15.

Over the weekend Taliban insurgents, some wearing night-vision goggles, killed 22 Afghan policemen in separate attacks on checkpoints.

Security in Kabul has been ramped up since the May 31 truck bomb that went off on the edge of the Green Zone near the German embassy, killing 150 people and wounding 400 others.

Special truck scanners, barriers and permanent and mobile checkpoints have been rolled out across the city.

First Published: Oct 31, 2017 17:51 IST