Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Kabul Bombing Kills at Least 80, Shaking City Center.- NYtimes

KABUL, Afghanistan — A truck bombing near the Afghan presidential palace early Wednesday killed at least 80 people and wounded hundreds, officials said. The death toll seemed certain to rise, and the attack appeared to be one of the bloodiest of the long Afghan war.

The huge blast during the morning rush hour caused panic in much of central Kabul, shattering windows as far as a mile away. Nearly two hours after the explosion near Zanbaq Square, a crowded area in the capital that leads to the presidential palace as well as major foreign embassies, plumes of smoke were still rising from the scene.

At a time when the United States is weighing sending more troops to Afghanistan to try to halt the government’s losses, the attack on Wednesday highlighted the continued ability of militants to strike even in the most secure parts of the capital. And outside the country’s main cities, the Taliban have rapidly been seizing territory and have kept the Afghan security forces badly bloodied and on the defensive.

At a news conference in Kabul, Gen. Murad Ali Murad, the deputy interior minister, said that more than 80 people had been killed and 463 wounded.

Kabul’s police chief, Gen. Hassan Shah Frogh, said the explosives used in the blast had been in a tanker truck used to empty septic tanks. The bomb was detonated near the square just as the street turns toward the German Embassy, he said.

“The blast was so huge that it dug a big crater as deep as four meters,” or 13 feet, General Frogh said.

The German Embassy was extensively damaged, with dozens of windows blown in, the public broadcaster ARD reported. It broadcast images showing stunned civilians pressing makeshift bandages to bloody limbs, stumbling through a smoke-filled street as ambulances rushed to the scene, their sirens blaring.

Germany’s foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel, said that an Afghan security guard employed by the embassy had been killed. He also said that several Germans had been wounded, without providing details. He condemned what he called an attack on “those who are in Afghanistan working with the people there for a better future.”

“To target these people is especially despicable,” Mr. Gabriel said.

In Germany, the blast was sure to fuel a debate over the government’s efforts to repatriate Afghans whose applications for asylum have been rejected. About 1,000 German soldiers are stationed in Afghanistan as part of the NATO force, and Germany has invested billions in military and aid to stabilize the country.

German officials have been at pains to insist that parts of Afghanistan are safe, despite an overall security situation that the interior minister, Thomas de Maizière, has described as “complicated.” Hours after the blast, the government in Berlin said that a flight carrying deportees bound for Afghanistan scheduled for Wednesday had been postponed, citing logistical reasons for embassy employees on the ground.

President Ashraf Ghani called the attack “a crime against humanity.” A statement by Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr., the commander of American and North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces in Afghanistan, applauded the Afghan security forces for preventing the truck full of explosives from entering the Green Zone, a reference to the area that houses the headquarters of the coalition forces as well as several foreign embassies.

“The attack demonstrates a complete disregard for civilians and reveals the barbaric nature of the enemy faced by the Afghan people,” the statement said. 

Pictures from the scene showed smoke and chaos, with bloodied people on the ground as emergency personnel tried to evacuate victims. Video footage that witnesses filmed immediately after the blast showed vast destruction to the buildings in the area and people stuck in destroyed vehicles amid flames.

Most of the victims appeared to be civilians on their way to work during the morning rush hour. A BBC driver, Mohammed Nazir, as well as Aziz Navin, an information technology worker for the Afghan television channel ToloNews, were among those killed. - Read More

Kabul Bombing Kills at Least 80, Shaking City Center - The New York


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