Bomber in ambulance detonates at Afghan checkpoint; 95 dead


Associated Press

KABUL, Afghanistan

A suicide bomber drove an ambulance into a commercial area by pretending to be carrying a patient to a hospital and then detonated his explosives at a checkpoint near the European Union consulate, killing at least 95 people and wounding 158 more in an attack claimed by the Taliban, authorities said.

Saturday’s powerful explosion, which came a week after Taliban militants killed 22 people at an international hotel in Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, was felt throughout the city and covered the blast area in smoke and dust. Dozens of vehicles were damaged or destroyed, and several shops, including some selling antiques and photography equipment, were decimated.

Windows at the nearby Jamhuriat government hospital were shattered, and its walls were damaged. People ran out to help, and ambulances arrived to transport dozens of wounded people to hospitals.

The attacker used the ambulance to coast through one security checkpoint in central Kabul by telling police he was transporting a patient and then detonated his explosives at a second checkpoint, the Interior Ministry said. Four suspects in the deadly bombing, which occurred near the European Union and Indian consulates, had been arrested and were being questioned, the ministry said, but it didn’t elaborate.

“The majority of the dead in the attack are civilians, but of course we have military casualties as well,” ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said.

A Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, claimed responsibility for the bombing, which sent thick, black smoke into the sky from a site near the government’s former Interior Ministry building.

It has been a month of relentless attacks across Afghanistan, with the Taliban and an Islamic State group affiliate making alternate claims of responsibility. The brutality and frequency of the attacks, including one in December at a Shiite cultural center, has shattered Afghanistan’s usually quiet winter, when fighting normally slows down.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres quickly condemned Saturday’s attack, saying through a spokesman that “Indiscriminate attacks against civilians ... can never be justified.” U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan John R. Bass called the attack “senseless and cowardly.”

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