KABUL // A suicide bomber drove a car packed with explosives into a minibus carrying foreign aviation workers to the airport in the Afghan capital early yesterday, killing at least 12 people including eight South Africans.
A militant group said the attack aimed to avenge an anti-Islam film that ridicules the Prophet Mohammed.
The powerful blast was the first in Kabul since a video clip of the film was posted on the internet last week, sparking angry protests across the Muslim world including in Afghanistan.
It was also the second, and deadliest, attack that Afghan militants have said they carried out as revenge strikes in response to the movie.
Haroon Zarghoon, a spokesman for the Islamist militant group Hizb-I-Islami, claimed responsibility for the dawn attack in telephone call to a news agency.
He said it was carried out by a 22-year-old woman named Fatima. Suicide bombings carried out by women are extremely rare in Afghanistan - and few if any women drive cars.
"The anti-Islam film hurt our religious sentiments and we cannot tolerate it," Mr Zarghoon said. "There had been several young men who wanted to take revenge but Fatima also volunteered and we wanted to give a chance to a girl for the attack to tell the world we cannot ignore any anti-Islam attack."
Mr Zarghoon warned of more attacks against foreigners working for Nato and said Hizb-I-Islami had been scouting targets since a video clip of the film was posted on the internet last week.
The bombing marks an escalation of violence in the capital, where most attacks are usually blamed on the Haqqani network - a Pakistan-based militant group affiliated with the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
"Foreign troops are fighting against Afghans and foreign civilians are tasked to spy for them. They all are our enemy and will be our target," Mr Zarghoon said.
The Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, condemned the attack, which he said killed eight South Africans, a Kyrgyzstani and three Afghans.
Some of the dead were working for a South African Aviation company called ACS/Balmoral, which said that its staff were notifying the families of those killed.
The Afghan interior ministry spokesman, Sediq Sediqqi, said 11 Afghan civilians were wounded, and that tests were under way to determine whether the suicide bomber was a woman.
The anti-Islam film has triggered days of protests in Afghanistan. On Monday, hundreds of Afghans burnt cars and threw stones at a United States military base in the capital in a demonstration against the video. One police vehicle was burnt by the mob before they finally dispersed.
Kabul police chief Gen Mohammad Ayub Salangi said yesterday's explosion took place near an avenue north-west of the city centre near Kabul International Airport, and the force of the blast threw the minibus at least 50 metres.
A witness at the scene said he was waiting at a bus stop by the road when he saw a small white sedan ram into the minibus.