Taleban militants claim Kabul truck bomb attack, warn of more to follow

Afghan private security guards investigate the site of a powerful truck bomb attack a day after it detonated near a foreign compound in Kabul, on Jan 15, 2019.
Afghan private security guards investigate the site of a powerful truck bomb attack a day after it detonated near a foreign compound in Kabul, on Jan 15, 2019.PHOTO: AFP

KABUL (AFP) - The Taleban on Tuesday (Jan 15) claimed responsibility for a powerful truck bomb attack in Kabul that ripped through surrounding neighbourhoods, killing at least four people and wounding more than 100, in the latest assault on the Afghan capital.

In a grim message, the militants also vowed to carry out more attacks in the city in direct response to the recent appointment of former spymaster and anti-Taleban veteran Amrullah Saleh as Interior Minister.

Monday evening's explosion near the heavily fortified Green Village foreign compound shook Kabul and comes as diplomats ramp up efforts to end the 17-year war in Afghanistan, which by some estimates was the world's deadliest conflict in 2018.

The force of the blast was felt across the sprawling city, initially causing confusion about the exact location of the attack. It shattered the windows of surrounding houses and shops.

Taleban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told journalists on WhatsApp that four attackers blew up an explosives-packed truck before entering Green Village and "killing many" foreigners.

Four people have been confirmed dead and 113 wounded, the Health Ministry said.

Most of the victims were Afghan civilians.

"Seven or eight people have been injured in every house around here including myself," said resident Mohammad Aref. "When I came out, the street was full of bodies of the dead and injured."

The authorities were still investigating whether any foreigners were among the casualties, Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish said.

 
 
 

Until recently, some United Nations staff had lived and worked at Green Village, which is heavily protected by cement blast walls.

But Mr Danish said earlier that the compound was now largely empty and "only a number of guards" were left.

A much bigger UN compound along with Afghanistan's customs office and headquarters for the Independent Election Commission are also nearby.

It is the second Taleban-claimed attack on a foreign compound in Kabul in recent months.

In late November last year, a vehicle bomb exploded outside the compound of British security firm G4S, killing at least 10 people.

Five G4S employees were among the dead.

That was followed by a suicide and gun attack on a government compound in Kabul on Dec 24 that killed at least 43 people, making it one of the deadliest assaults on the city last year.

The latest bombing comes as US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad visits the region for further meetings aimed at bringing an end to the war in Afghanistan, which by some estimates was the world's deadliest conflict zone in 2018.

Mr Khalilzad, who met Taleban representatives last month in Abu Dhabi, is travelling to Afghanistan as well as China, India and Pakistan on the trip lasting through Jan 21.

Afghan officials suggested the latest attack appeared to be an attempt to derail the burgeoning peace process, vowing the bombing would not go unanswered.

"As we are trying to reach a regional consensus on peace, the enemy is trying to sabotage it," said National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib on social media.

"I strongly condemn this attack and promise I will seriously investigate and avenge it," he added.

Last month's leaking of US President Donald Trump's plan to slash troop numbers in Afghanistan, however, has threatened to derail the efforts and alarmed many Afghans who fear a return to oppressive Taleban rule.

Diplomats in Kabul have long said that any negotiations with the militants would likely happen as fighting continued on the battlefield - cold comfort for Afghan civilians who have long borne the brunt of the war.