Afghanistan slams Pakistan over wave of bloody Kabul attacks

Members of the Afghan security services carry wreckage from the site of a suicide attack targeting the Kabul international airport, Afghanistan on Monday. At least five people, including the bomber, were killed and 18 injured 10 when the attacker det
Members of the Afghan security services carry wreckage from the site of a suicide attack targeting the Kabul international airport, Afghanistan on Monday. At least five people, including the bomber, were killed and 18 injured 10 when the attacker detonated in the Afghan capital, officials said. PHOTO: EPA

KABUL (AFP) - Afghan President Ashraf Ghani accused Pakistan on Monday of sending "messages of war" and harbouring bomb-making camps, after a wave of devastating blasts in Kabul killed at least 56 people.

A Taleban suicide car bomber claimed the lives of five people Monday near Kabul's international airport, the latest in a barrage of violence that has convulsed the Afghan capital since Friday.

The Taleban are stepping up their summer offensive amid a bitter leadership dispute following the announcement of the death of longtime supremo Mullah Omar.

Since coming to power last year Ghani has actively courted Pakistan, which has historically backed the Taleban, in what experts call a calculated gambit to pressure the militants to the negotiating table.

But in a volte face Monday, Ghani slammed Pakistan for failing to rein in the Taleban as peace talks falter and insurgents ramp up attacks that are a test for beleaguered Afghan security forces.

"The last few days have shown that suicide bomber training camps and bomb-producing factories which are killing our people are as active as before in Pakistan," Ghani told a news conference. "We hoped for peace but we are receiving messages of war from Pakistan.... We can no longer see our people bleeding in a war that is exported from outside."

In response to Ghani's remarks, Pakistan said it condemned the recent deadly attacks in the "strongest terms".

"Having been the biggest victim of terrorism itself... Pakistan can feel the pain and anguish of the brotherly people... of Afghanistan," a government statement said.

In Monday's attack a suicide car bomber tore through a crowd during the lunchtime rush at a checkpoint where passengers undergo the first round of body checks before entering the airport.

Smoke billowed from the scene of the explosion, which killed at least five people, with officials warning that the toll could rise further.

The checkpoint was littered with pieces of charred flesh and strewn with the twisted and mangled wreckage of burning vehicles.

The Taleban said two vehicles belonging to foreign coalition forces were the target.

The NATO mission in Afghanistan has not yet commented on the bombing, which the Afghan interior ministry denounced as a "heinous act, against the values of humanity".

A series of bombings in the city began on Friday with three blasts - one close to an army complex, another at a police academy and one at a US special forces base - killing a total of 51 people.

They were the first major attacks since Mullah Akhtar Mansour was named as the new Taleban chief in an acrimonious power transition, after the insurgents confirmed Omar's death.

Afghans have long accused Pakistan of nurturing militant sanctuaries on its soil in the hope of maintaining influence in Afghanistan.

"In my telephone call with (Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Sunday), I told Pakistan to see terrorism in Afghanistan the same way it sees terrorism in Pakistan," he said.

"I ask the Pakistani government if the mass killings of Shah Shaheed had happened in Islamabad and the perpetrators were in Afghanistan, what would you do?" he said, referring to a Kabul neighbourhood that suffered a fatal truck bombing on Friday.

Ghani's remarks are his strongest yet against Pakistan, reflecting his frustration after he expended substantial political capital in the process of pursuing rapprochement with the longtime regional nemesis.

"Ghani took a bold political risk by trying to improve Afghanistan's contentious relations with Pakistan, in the hope of paving the way towards peace talks," said Kabul-based political analyst Haroon Mir. "Ten months on, Pakistan has failed to deliver on talks, insurgent attacks are at an all-time high and the new Taleban leadership has clearly spurned his calls for peace."

Observers say the new upsurge in violence represents a bid by new Taleban leader Mansour to distract attention from the crisis roiling the militant movement.

Some top leaders of the Islamist insurgency, including Omar's son and brother, have refused to pledge allegiance to Mansour, saying the process to select him was rushed and even biased.

Tayeb Agha, the head of the Qatar political office set up in 2013 to ease talks with Kabul, resigned last week in protest at Mansour's appointment and two more members of the office followed suit.

The power struggle has cast a pall over a fragile peace process aimed at ending Afghanistan's long war.

The first face-to-face talks aimed at ending the 14-year insurgency took place last month between the Afghan government and the Taleban in the Pakistani hill town of Murree.

But the Taleban distanced themselves from a second round of talks scheduled for the end of July, after the announcement of Omar's death.