External Affairs

Scores Killed, Wounded in Ambulance Blast in Kabul

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the blast, a week after it claimed an attack on the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul in which more than 20 people were killed.

People carry an injured man to a hospital after a blast in Kabul, Afghanistan January 27, 2018. Credit: Reuters/Mohammad Ismail

People carry an injured man to a hospital after a blast in Kabul, Afghanistan January 27, 2018. Credit: Reuters/Mohammad Ismail

Kabul: A bomb hidden in an ambulance killed at least 40 people and wounded about 140 in Afghanistan on Saturday when it blew up at a police checkpoint in an area of the capital near foreign embassies and government buildings.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the blast, a week after it claimed an attack on the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul in which more than 20 people were killed.

Health ministry spokesman Wahid Majroh said at least 40 people were killed and 140 wounded in the blast, which tore through a crowded street in a busy part of Kabul at lunchtime on Saturday, a working day in Afghanistan.

“It is a massacre,” said Dejan Panic, coordinator in Afghanistan for the Italian aid group Emergency, which runs a nearby trauma hospital.

In a message on Twitter, the group said more than 70 wounded and seven dead had been brought in to that hospital alone.

Mirwais Yasini, a member of parliament who was nearby when the explosion occurred, said an ambulance approached the checkpoint and blew up. The target was apparently an interior ministry building nearby.

The Swedish and Dutch embassies as well as the EU representation and an Indian consular office are also nearby.

Buildings hundreds of metres (yards) away were shaken by the force of the blast, which left torn bodies strewn on the street amid piles of rubble and debris.

“I was sitting in the office when the explosion went off,” said Alam, an office worker whose head was badly cut in the blast.

“All the windows shattered, the building collapsed and everything came down.”

People helped walking-wounded away as ambulances with sirens wailing inched their way through the traffic-clogged streets of the city centre.

As hospitals struggled to handle the casualties, some of the wounded were laid out in the open, with intravenous drips set up next to them.

The latest attack will add pressure on President Ashraf Ghani and his US allies, who have expressed growing confidence that a new more aggressive military strategy has succeeded in driving Taliban insurgents back from major provincial centres.

The US has stepped up its assistance to Afghan security forces and increased its air strikes against the Taliban and other militant groups, aiming to break a stalemate and force the insurgents to the negotiating table.

However, the Taliban has dismissed suggestions it has been weakened by the new strategy and the incidents of the past week have shown its capacity to mount deadly, high-profile attacks is undiminished, even in the heavily protected centre of Kabul.

(Reuters)

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