Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 23 November 2019

Afghan civilians mourn as Kabul targeted by Taliban and ISIS

Last year was the deadliest on record for civilian casualties in Afghanistan's conflict

A damaged bicycle is seen at the site of a suicide attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, July 25, 2019. AP
A damaged bicycle is seen at the site of a suicide attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, July 25, 2019. AP

The Afghan Taliban and ISIS carried out bomb attacks in Kabul on Thursday that killed at least 11 people including a Nato soldier and injured scores of civilians.

Interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said a suicide bomber on a motorcycle rammed into the Nato convoy at about 8am near the Green Village, a compound on the outskirts of the Afhgan capital that houses many foreign organisations and has come under frequent attack.

Croatia's Defence Minister Damir Krsticevic said one Croatian soldier was killed in the attack and two others were injured.

Social media accounts linked to Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack on the Nato convoy, while ISIS said it carried out the two other bombings in Kabul on Thursday.

At least 10 people were killed when another motorcycle-borne suicide bomber attacked a minibus carrying employees of the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum, including five women and one child. The second blast was set off by a suicide bomber targeting rescuers who arrived to assist those injured on the bus.

“My daughter and son were taking their younger brother for vaccination when the explosion happened. They were rushed to this hospital, and I was informed but I haven’t seen them,” said Mohammad Tahir, 55, speaking to The National outside the Emergency War and Trauma Hospital where he was waiting for news about his children aged 9 and 12.

“My daughter has injuries on her leg and my son has stomach wounds. The youngest baby they were accompanying is uninjured thanks to his older siblings,” he said, choking back tears.

The Taliban have increased their attacks on the Afghan capital and across the country despite the ongoing peace talks with the US administration. The latest came as the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford was meeting top US and Nato officials in the city. Mr Dunford was also scheduled to meet Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who is in Kabul this week, is expected to travel to Qatar's capital Doha in coming days for the new round of talks with the Taliban.

However, for those like Mr Tahir, the wait for peace has been a heavy one to bear.

“What sort of peace deal will this be? How will they answer to God for all this they have done? If these terrorist believe in judgment day, trust me these people will have no answer to God.”

As he spoke, health workers brought in more injured civilians, including children.

“I saw two people die inside the hospital," Mr Tahir said. "What crime had they committed? My heart is bleeding."

Close a member of the Afghan security forces was waiting for news of his brother who is also a soldier. “My brother was responding to the attack near the minibus when the second explosion took place. He was there to help the people and has was injured in the head and stomach. I am just waiting here hoping for some good news,” said the soldier, who did not wish to be identified.

The increased violence from the Taliban, who are seeking leverage in the peace talks, as well as the rising threat from other insurgent groups such as ISIS who indiscriminately target urban centres, has taken a heavy toll on civilians. In the first quarter of this year, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) documented 1,773 civilian casualties, of which 582 were children. Since then several other attacks, at least three of which were close to schools and public spaces, have resulted in several hundred more injuries and deaths, causing extreme frustration among the Afghans.

“Even breaking the heart of a person carries a lot of sin in Islam; and these people are killing innocent lives. If they really were Muslims as they claim to be, they wouldn’t have done this,” said Mr Tahir.

The bombings came just three days before the official campaign season for presidential election gets under way. President Ghani will face 17 hopefuls to seek a second term in the September 28 vote. Previous polls have been marred by violence and bloodshed by the Taliban and other insurgent groups who refuse to recognise Afghanistan's fragile democracy.

The US has stepped up its air campaign against the Taliban this year, and all sides claim to have inflicted heavy casualties on each other.

Still, the US and the Taliban insist they are making progress, and the insurgents and a group of Afghans this month made a vague and unbinding pledge to try to reduce civilian deaths to "zero".

Updated: July 25, 2019 10:12 PM

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