50 dead, hundreds injured in Afghan bombings
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.
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
“The bomber was wearing
a police uniform and detonated his explosives among students who had just
returned from a break,” a police official said.
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)