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General
50 dead, hundreds injured in Afghan bombings
09-08-2015

Kabul: A wave of attacks on the Afghan army, police and US special forces in Kabul killed at least 50 people and wounded hundreds, dimming hopes that the Taliban might be weakened by a leadership struggle after their longtime leader’s death.

The bloodshed began on Friday with a truck bomb that exploded in a heavily populated district of the capital and ended with an hours-long battle at a base used by US special forces. It became the deadliest day in Kabul for years.

The Islamist insurgents claimed responsibility for both the police academy attack and the battle at the US special forces base, though not for the truck bomb.

The scale of the violence heightened obstacles to reviving the stalled peace process and conveyed a no-compromise message from the Taliban at a delicate time following last week’s revelation of Mullah Mohammad Omar’s death and a dispute over the leadership of the insurgency.

“The question is who is sending the message?” Thomas Ruttig of the Afghanistan Analysts Network said.

The UN mission in Afghanistan said the incident was the worst since it began recording civilian casualties in 2009, with 355 civilians killed or injured. The UN Special Representative, Nicholas Haysom, called it “extreme, irreversible and unjustifiable in any terms.”

On Saturday, NATO-led coalition forces confirmed that one international service member and eight Afghan contractors were killed in the attack on Camp Integrity, a base used by US special forces near the main airport.

The blast outside the base was powerful enough to flatten offices inside, wounding occupants who were airlifted by helicopter to military hospitals during the night. “There was a big explosion at the gate... sounded like it came from two different sides,” said a special forces member who was wounded when his office collapsed.

The initial blast caused by a suicide car bomb at the gate was followed by other explosions and a firefight that lasted a couple of hours, he said. Camp Integrity is run by US security contractor Academi, which was known as Blackwater before being sold to investors. Academi did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Police uniform

The Camp Integrity assault followed a suicide bombing at a police academy on Friday evening that killed and wounded more than 40 people, the Afghan Interior Ministry said on Saturday. A police source said the final tally was higher - 26 killed and 28 wounded.

“The bomber was wearing a police uniform and detonated his explosives among students who had just returned from a break,” a police official said.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the insurgents launched both the police academy and Camp Integrity attacks, but he earlier refused to comment on Friday’s early morning truck bomb that tore through buildings in central Kabul, killing at least 15 people and wounding 248 others.

The Taliban, who were toppled from power by the US-led military intervention in 2001, rarely admit to attacks that kill a high number of civilians.

Divisions have broken out within the Taliban high command following last week’s appointment of Mullah Akhtar Mansour as new leader. Previously seen as open to reviving peace talks, he has since pledged to press on with the insurgency that has killed and wounded thousands this year.

Analyst Ruttig said that with the latest attacks in Kabul, Mansour could be sending a message of resolve to the militant rank and file as well as to the Afghan government.  (With inputs from agencies)