KABUL • A Taleban suicide car bomber struck a Nato convoy in central Kabul yesterday, triggering a powerful explosion in an attack that comes two weeks after the resurgent militant group overran a key northern city.
The rush-hour bombing, which sent a plume of smoke into the sky, wounded at least three civilians, including a child, as the Taleban ramps up attacks on government and foreign targets.
The intensity of the blast sent an armoured vehicle crashing into a pavement - its front end badly mangled - and left the area littered with charred pieces of twisted metal.
"The incident took place when a suicide bomber detonated an explosive-packed car in the Joy Shir area...of Kabul city," the Interior Ministry said. "The target of the attacker was the foreign forces convoy," it added.
Security forces cordoned off the area as ambulances, with their sirens wailing, rushed to the scene. However, officials said the human toll of the blast was limited.
"The Interior Ministry condemns, in the strongest terms, the suicide attack that resulted in the wounding of three civilians," the ministry said.
According to Kabul police, those who were wounded included a woman and a child. A Nato spokesman in Kabul confirmed that its convoy came under attack, but said the international coalition was still gathering more information.
The emboldened insurgents have stepped up attacks around Afghanistan since they launched their annual summer offensive in late April.
The Taleban captured the northern city of Kunduz on Sept 28 - its most spectacular victory in 14 years. The seizure of the provincial capital for three days was a stinging blow to Western-trained Afghan forces, who have largely been fighting on their own since the end of Nato's combat mission last December.
The Taleban, toppled from power in a 2001 United States-led invasion of Afghanistan, said yesterday's bombing was carried out to avenge the recent "barbaric bombardment" in Kunduz by foreign and government forces.
Meanwhile, Afghan security forces have killed 15 Taleban militants, including key commander Mawlawi Ibrahim Shiwani, during operations in the western Farah province yesterday, said a senior army officer in the western region. The commander's death could be a major setback to Taleban militants in Farah and adjoining provinces, added General Taj Mohammad Jahid.
In the meantime, the government claims to have wrested back control of Kunduz city, but sporadic firefights continue with pockets of insurgents as Afghan soldiers, backed by Nato special forces, conduct clearance operations.
As fighting spreads in neighbouring Badakhshan, Takhar and Baghlan provinces, concerns are mounting that the seizure of Kunduz was merely the opening gambit in a new, bolder strategy to tighten the insurgency's grip across northern Afghanistan.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, XINHUA