Kabul reels after deadly truck bombing

Published June 2, 2017
Scenes of the Kabul bombing that left at least 90 people dead — File
Scenes of the Kabul bombing that left at least 90 people dead — File

KABUL: Kabul was reeling on Thursday from its deadliest attack since 2001, with anguished families burying their dead as authorities cleared away mangled wreckage and public anger mounted over the government’s failure to protect citizens in the heart of the capital.

No group has so far claimed Wedn­esday’s attack, launched from a sewage tanker packed with explosives, which tore a massive crater in the ground and killed at least 90 people, mainly civilians, while wounding hundreds.

The brazen attack during Ramazan highlighted the ability of militants to strike even in the capital’s most secure district, home to the presidential palace and foreign embassies that are enveloped in a maze of concrete blast walls.

Angry citizens demanded answers from the government over the perceived intelligence failure leading to the assault, which underscores spiralling insecurity in Afghanistan.

“For how long will we have to tolerate this bloodshed in our country?” a sobbing resident asked on local Tolo News. “I have lost my brother in the blast and the government is constantly failing to provide us with security.”

Authorities swept off debris and shards of glass littered across the streets, and cleared away the charred carcasses of blown-up vehicles, as shocked residents held emotionally charged funerals.

With more than 400 people wounded, the injured spilled over into hospital hallways as huge crowds gathered outside waiting for news of their loved ones or searching for still missing relatives. Health officials warned some victims may never be identified as their bodies were torn into pieces or burned beyond recognition.

Afghanistan’s intelligence agency blamed the Taliban-allied Haqqani Network for the attack. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani is expected to approve the execution of 11 Taliban and Haqqani prisoners, a government source said, in apparent retaliation to the assault.

The Taliban — currently in the midst of their annual “spring offensive” — denied they were involved, and the militant Islamic State group so far has not issued a claim in the attack.

Global outrage swelled on Thursday over the blast, the deadliest single attack in Kabul since the Taliban were toppled from power in a 2001 US-led invasion. US President Donald Trump told Ghani in a phone call that the timing of the attack during Ramazan underscored “the barbaric nature of the terrorists who are enemies of all civilised peoples”.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed his “abhorrence” at the strike.

The lights at the Eiffel Tower were switched off on Wednesday night to honour the scores of victims.

The explosion, which Kabul residents compared to an earthquake, damaged several embassies in the area.

At least 11 Afghan guards working for the US embassy were among those killed and 11 American citizens working as contractors in Kabul were among the wounded, US officials have said.

Germany said an Afghan guard had been killed at its embassy, which was “in the immediate vicinity” of the attack, while several other countries also reported damage to their missions.

Published in Dawn, June 2nd, 2017

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