A British citizen was among the dead after a suicide bomber rammed a car packed with explosives into a UK embassy vehicle in the Afghan capital today.
Officials said the attacker’s Toyota Corolla threw the armoured car on to its side, on the highway connecting Kabul to Jalalabad. At least five people were killed in the attack, while more than 30 were injured.
The dead Briton was a security guard with the private security firm G4S. An Afghan employed by the British embassy was also among the dead, while another Briton is among the injured. The Taliban is reported to have claimed responsibility for the bombing.
G4S, the world’s biggest security firm, confirmed that one of its staff had been killed in the blast and another injured.
The Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said he condemned the “appalling attack on innocent civilians supporting our diplomatic activity”.
Hours later, Taliban fighters staged an attack on the Wazir Akbar Khan district, which contains numerous foreign embassies and compounds housing international agencies. Witnesses described multiple explosions.
After years of conflict, Afghanistan’s capital remains, as Kabul’s police chief concedes, a city where militants can strike without warning. And suicide bombings, like the twin blasts today.
Officials said the first attack took place just after 10.20am local time. “I saw a Corolla car driven at high speed hit a car bearing a diplomatic registration plate,” said 16-year-old Mahbobullah Anwari, who works at an Afghan bakery 100 metres from the blast site.
He told The Independent: “The collision was followed by a loud explosion and a plume of smoke. I saw people covered in blood screaming and running for cover.” He said the embassy vehicle had been “charred and mangled”. Mahbobullah said the owner of his bakery, Haji Azam, also suffered injuries in the attack and was left in coma.
Kanishka Turkistani, a spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Public Health, said the injured included six children and two women. At least 38 people are thought to have been injured in the first attack. “Most of the injured are being treated for splinter injuries to head, chest and legs,” he said.
The highway was reopened to traffic about seven hours after the bombing. Police and fire officials could be seen washing blood from the road.
Some body parts, including those of the attacker, were put in bags and taken away. Shops along the Kabul-Jalalabad road and petrol stations then reopened.
For those living in Kabul, it was another perilous day. The attack was the fourth on the Kabul-Jalalabad road and the ninth suicide attack in the city in the last two weeks. On Monday, two US soldiers were killed in a bombing further down the road in eastern Kabul. Afghan security officials often accuse Pakistani intelligence agencies of providing logistics support to Taliban fighters. Those claims are strongly rebutted by the Pakistani government.
Video: Suicide attack in Kabul last week
Security experts say the spate of recent attacks in Kabul and other parts of Afghanistan is intended to create a climate of fear as the US and its coalition partners withdraw combat forces from the country. “The attacks have shattered the confidence of ordinary Afghans, who are increasingly blaming the government for failing to prevent them,” one expert said.
Kabul’s police chief, General Zahir Zahir, said: “It is possible for a few people to sneak in without the authorities noticing. Such an incident can happen anywhere. These attacks are sophisticated. The military-grade explosives often used in such attacks is issued to the Pakistan army,” he said.
“My thoughts are with our injured colleague, and with the families and friends of those killed,” said the British ambassador in Kabul, Sir Richard Stagg.
“I am deeply saddened to confirm that a British national civilian security team member and an Afghan national working for the embassy were killed in the incident,” the Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said in a statement.
“Next of kin have been informed,” a spokesman for G4S said. “Our thoughts and most heartfelt condolences are with the families, friends and colleagues of those involved.”
A second loud explosion was later heard in Kabul’s affluent Wazir Akbar Khan area. Witnesses said Afghan police special forces had surrounded the area and bursts of heavy machine gun fire could be heard.
Local shopkeepers said military forces had traded fire with multiple attackers. “Two or three insurgents have entered the compound. Our forces are there and the fight is ongoing,” the commander of 111 Military Corps Kabul, Qadam Shah Shaheem, told Reuters. Two suicide attackers were said to have been killed by security forces.
The attack took place near the compound of the development agency International Relief and Development, Reuters reported.
The Deputy Interior Minister Mohammad Ayoub Salangi confirmed the target of the attack was a guest house in the diplomatic area. He said no foreigners had been killed. “One of the attackers blew himself up,” Mr Salangi said.