A man driving a minivan packed with explosives rammed a Nato convoy in Kabul yesterday, killing six troops and 12 civilians in the rebels' deadliest attack in the Afghan capital for over a year.
A fireball from the 750kg bomb engulfed passing vehicles as commuters wove through Kabul's chaotic rush-hour traffic. As in previous attacks, civilians bore the brunt, with interior ministry officials saying that at least 47 were injured, including students riding to school on a public bus.
Mafouz Mahmoodi, an Afghan police officer, said he "just dived on the ground to try to save myself. And then I got up, and I saw the terrible scene".
Body parts and mangled metal lay scattered in a 200-foot radius of the blast. "There were lots of women and girls" among the dead, according to an eyewitness, Obiadullah Saddiqyar.
"I heard later that they were students going to university," he told the BBC. "This situation really made me cry for the bloodshed and the innocent people who were killed and injured."
The Nato casualties included five US troops and one Canadian. The deaths took the number of Nato troops killed so far this year to 208, up almost 75 per cent on the same period last year.
Yesterday's attack was the first in Kabul since the Taliban vowed to step up their bombing campaign against not just Nato troops but contractors, diplomats and members of the Afghan parliament.
The bomb detonated close to the parliament building, the American University in Afghanistan and the deserted ruins of Darulaman palace, once the seat of Afghanistan's monarchy. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the bombing on their website and said the bomber was a young man called Nizamuddin from Kabul.