90 killed in Kabul blast: Afghan intel says attack planned by Haqqani network, ISI

Afghanistan’s spy agency blamed the Pakistan-based Haqqani Network and the ISI for the massive bomb attack in Kabul that killed 90 people and injured 400.
Injured Afghan women and men at the site of a car bomb attack in Kabul.(AFP Photo)
Injured Afghan women and men at the site of a car bomb attack in Kabul.(AFP Photo)
Updated on Jun 01, 2017 12:31 AM IST
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Agencies, Kabul | By

A powerful bomb hidden in a sewage tanker exploded in the highly secure diplomatic quarter of Kabul on Wednesday morning, killing 90 people and demonstrating that the holy month of Ramzan would provide little respite from the violence across Afghanistan.

The blast in the heart of the Afghan capital injured 400 people and damaged the embassies of India, Bulgaria, France, Japan, Turkey and the UAE. It also destroyed or damaged more than 50 vehicles and shattered windows of buildings located hundreds of metres away.

India’s ambassador Manpreet Vohra said the bomb went off nearly 100 metres from the country’s embassy, causing “considerable damage” but all members of the staff were safe.

The National Directorate of Security said on Wednesday evening the attack was planned by the Haqqani Network in Pakistan with the “direct help” of the Inter-Services Intelligence agency, according to Afghan media.

The Taliban denied responsibility and said they condemned attacks that have no legitimate target and killed civilians.

The government’s media centre said: “In this powerful attack, 90 people have been killed and 400 wounded, including many women and children.” Health officials warned the toll could climb further.

The target of the explosion in Wazir Akbar Khan area was not immediately known and officials said it was caused by 1,500 kg of explosives hidden in the sewage tanker. The attack took place at the peak of Kabul’s rush hour, when roads were packed with commuters.

The bomb killed an Afghan security guard at the German embassy and injured some staff, foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel said on Twitter. BBC News said an Afghan driver was killed and four journalists were wounded but their injuries were not life threatening. Tolo News tweeted a technical staff, Aziz Navin, was killed.

*Graphic Image

An injured man arrives at a hospital after a blast in Kabul. (Reuters Photo)
An injured man arrives at a hospital after a blast in Kabul. (Reuters Photo)

Some reports said a suicide bomber detonated the explosives-packed vehicle in Zanbaq Square around 8.30am. The NATO-led Resolute Support mission said Afghan security forces prevented the vehicle from entering the heavily protected Green Zone that houses many foreign embassies as well as its headquarters, suggesting it may not have reached its intended target.

Bodies littered the scene and a huge plume of smoke rose from the area. Witnesses described dozens of cars choking the roads as wounded survivors and panicked schoolgirls sought safety, with men and woman struggling to get through security checkpoints to search for loved ones.

Video shot at the scene showed burning debris, crumbled walls and buildings and destroyed cars, many with dead or injured people inside.

Indian ambassador Manpreet Vohra said: “We are all safe, all our staff, all our personnel are safe. However, the blast was very large and nearby buildings, including our own building, have considerable damage in terms of broken glass and shattered windows and blown doors.”

“By God’s grace, Indian embassy staff are safe in the massive #Kabul blast,” external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted.

Germany, Japan and Pakistan said some of their embassy employees and staff were hurt in the explosion.

“The attack took place very close to the German embassy. It hit civilians and those who are in Afghanistan to work for a better future for the country with the people there. It’s especially contemptible that these people were the target,” German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel tweeted.

At the Wazir Akbar Khan hospital a few blocks away, there were scenes of chaos as ambulances brought in wounded and frantic relatives scanned casualty lists and questioned hospital staff for news.

“It felt like an earthquake,” said 21-year-old Mohammad Hassan, describing the moment the blast struck the bank where he was working. His head wound had been bandaged but blood soaked his white dress shirt.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi condemned the blast in Kabul and underlined the need for defeating forces supporting terrorism. Modi, who was in Spain on a visit, said India stands with Afghanistan in fighting all forms of terrorism.

“We strongly condemn the terrorist blast in Kabul. Our thoughts are with the families of the deceased & prayers with the injured,” Modi tweeted.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani also condemned the attack and statement from his office quoted him as saying that “the terrorists, even in the holy month of Ramadan, the month of goodness, blessing and prayer, are not stopping the killing of our innocent people”.

The attack, which came as the resurgent Taliban are stepping up their annual “spring offensive”, underscored spiralling insecurity in Afghanistan, where security forces beset by soaring casualties and desertions are struggling to beat back the insurgents. More than one-third of the country is outside government control.

The Islamic State, the other main terror group active in Afghanistan, also has carried out high profile attacks in Kabul, including a strike on a military hospital in March that killed more than 50 people.

Men move an injured man to a hospital after a blast in Kabul, Afghanistan. (Reuters Photo)
Men move an injured man to a hospital after a blast in Kabul, Afghanistan. (Reuters Photo)

Afghan troops are backed by US and NATO forces, and the Pentagon has reportedly asked the White House to send thousands more troops to the country to break the deadlocked fight against the Taliban.

US troops in Afghanistan currently number about 8,400, and there are another 5,000 from NATO allies, who mainly serve in an advisory capacity – a far cry from the US presence of more than 100,000 six years ago.

Pentagon chief Jim Mattis has warned of “another tough year” for both foreign troops and local forces in Afghanistan.

The blast was the latest in a long line of attacks in Kabul. The province surrounding the capital had the highest number of casualties in the first three months of 2017 thanks to multiple attacks in the city, with civilians bearing the brunt of the violence.

(With inputs from HT Correspondent in Delhi)

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