Afghanistan authorities say that an ambulance blew up at a security checkpoint in the capital, killing at least 103 and wounding more than 200.
The suicide attack occurred on a street crowded with shoppers and merchants. It’s only the latest atrocity in Afghanistan carried out by the Taliban who are pushing back against US efforts to bring some security to the country.
The people of Afghanistan have little confidence in the government to protect them, as President Ashaf Ghani is embroiled in a serious political conflict with the opposition.
Saturday’s attacker made it through one security checkpoint by driving an ambulance and claiming to be taking a patient to a hospital, the Interior Ministry’s deputy spokesperson Nasrat Rahimi told The Associated Press. The driver then detonated explosives at a second checkpoint near government buildings and embassies. The Taliban said the attack was aimed at the country’s Interior Ministry.
Andrew Quilty, a freelance photojournalist based in Kabul, was in a carpet shop a few hundred feet away when the blast occurred. Quilty told NPR’s Scott Simon that the area is known as “Chicken Street,” a bustling corridor crammed with merchants and shoppers.
“I heard it, I came out from the store and I immediately saw people running,” Quilty said.
As he followed the smoke, Quilty saw broken windows, crushed cars aflame and then bodies.
“In the immediate vicinity, I saw probably 12 to 15 all really just mangled, almost as if they were melted together, it was just a pile of bodies, most of them dead, some of them still alive,” Quilty said.
NPR’s Diaa Hadid reports from Lahore, Pakistan, “a foreign aid worker described the aftermath as a ‘massacre’ as dozens were rushed to the hospital where he works.”
In addition to striking terror in the opposition, the Taliban is making it clear to the US that they don’t think much of our efforts to improve the security situation.
Security officials have warned of possible further attacks.
The Taliban said their attack was intended as a message to U.S. President Donald Trump who last year sent more American troops to Afghanistan and ordered an increase in air strikes and other assistance to Afghan forces.
“The Islamic Emirate has a clear message for Trump and his hand kissers that if you go ahead with a policy of aggression and speak from the barrel of a gun, don’t expect Afghans to grow flowers in response,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement, using the term the use to describe themselves.
The attack in one of the most heavily protected parts of the city, close to foreign embassies and government buildings, was the worst seen in the Afghan capital since a truck bomb near the German embassy killed 150 people in May.
“People were running everywhere to escape, there were wounded people lying on the ground, people with wounds to their arms, legs, heads,” Hanif said.
Despite a major tightening in checks following the May 31 attack, the ambulance was able to get through the checkpoints, apparently without difficulty.
“People don’t have work. There’s no life for people in Afghanistan. People have to look for a life somewhere else, there’s nowhere,” said shopkeeper Sameem.
President Ghani has been ineffective. Worse, the security services — the army and police — still lack adequate training and weapons to take on the Taliban.
There are some crack units in the Afghan army — specifically, US trained special forces. But the Taliban operates virtually unimpeded in most provinces and when they choose to attack, there is little that the security services can do.
The Taliban is slowly winning the war and the Afghan government doesn’t seem to have a clue on how to prevent that from happening.