Explosion kills at least seventeen in Kabul

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The Independent Online

A powerful explosion tore through the office of a US security contractor in the Afghan capital yesterday, killing seventeen people including two Americans, officials and witnesses said.

A powerful explosion tore through the office of a US security contractor in the Afghan capital yesterday, killing seventeen people including two Americans, officials and witnesses said.

The explosion hit the office of Dyncorp Inc., an American firm that provides security for Afghan President Hamid Karzai and works for the US government in Iraq, said Nick Downie of the Afghanistan NGO Security Office.

"The explosion which occurred in front of the Kabul office of an international security company killed at least seven people," Karzai's office said in a statement. "Two Americans, three Nepalese and two Afghan nationals, including a child, have been confirmed dead."

Karzai and US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad expressed shock at the attack.

An embassy statement said the contractor was also involved in a project to train Afghan police.

"This cowardly attack will not deter US participation in the ongoing effort to help Afghanistan stand on its own feet," Khalilzad said, expressing sympathy for the victims of a "terrorist attack."

Downie said he and others at the scene pulled five or six seriously injured people - including other apparent US citizens - from the building. "Some were obviously Dyncorp staff," he said.

The company is believed to employ Nepalese guards in Afghanistan, where it is also reportedly involved in counter-narcotics efforts.

The blast occurred in Kabul's Shar-e Naw district, a bustling area thick with the offices of international organizations and guesthouses used by their staff.

The building was burning fiercely after the explosion, which blew out windows of surrounding houses.

Reporters saw the badly mutilated body of one man lying in the street before Afghan police and foreign security guards pushed them back at gunpoint.

Emergency workers ferried the victims to hospital in ambulances and picked body parts from the street.

Residents said a boy living in a neighboring house and a cobbler in a nearby stall were killed, and as many as eight others were wounded.

"It was a very, very big explosion, and there were a lot of injured," said Ahmad Emal, a young shopkeeper watching from behind the police cordon. "These foreigners should leave the residential areas."

The charred wreckage of a car lay in front of the burning house. Afghans crowded around what appeared to be the engine block lying several hundred yards away, suggesting the explosion was caused by a car bomb.

"There was a crater right in front of the office door," Downie said. "There's not much doubt about the target."

Security officials have issued several warnings in recent weeks about possible car bombings and suicide attacks in the Afghan capital.

NATO forces patrolling the city have warned that anti-government militants, including the ousted Taliban, could try to mount spectacular attacks in a bid to disrupt the upcoming elections.

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