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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 14 December 2018

Afghan police foil truck bomber in Kabul, officials say

Police shot and wounded the driver of the vehicle carrying 30 yellow and orange plastic containers filled with explosive material and two bombs weighing 100 kilogrammes each

A captured Taliban insurgent is presented to the media after he was arrested with car explosive devices in Kabul, Afghanistan on October 15, 2017. Omar Sobhani / Reuters
A captured Taliban insurgent is presented to the media after he was arrested with car explosive devices in Kabul, Afghanistan on October 15, 2017. Omar Sobhani / Reuters

Afghan police seized a lorry packed with explosives hidden under boxes of tomatoes in Kabul, officials said on Sunday, averting a potentially deadly blast in the capital months after a massive truck bomb killed and wounded hundreds.

Police shot and wounded the driver of the vehicle carrying 30 yellow and orange plastic containers filled with explosive material and two bombs weighing 100 kilogrammes each after he failed to stop at a security checkpoint late Saturday, the interior ministry said.

"The driver wanted to flee with the truck from a police checkpoint but the police shot him. The driver was wounded and the truck stopped," the ministry said in a statement.

A Western security source told AFP that each 20-litre drum contained ammonium nitrate, which is also used to make fertiliser. The containers were connected by yellow electric cables, photographs showed.

The only thing missing was the device to detonate the explosives, he said.

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Security in the Afghan capital has been ramped up since May 31 when a massive truck bomb ripped through the city's diplomatic quarter, killing about 150 and wounding around 400 people, mostly civilians.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack — the deadliest in the city since 2001 — that Western officials say was caused by more than 1,500kg of explosives packed in a sewage truck.

The government has blamed the Taliban-allied Haqqani Network for the bombing. Taliban militants rarely claim responsibility for attacks that kill large numbers of civilians.

Following outrage over the attack authorities increased the number of police checkpoints in the diplomatic zone and installed special barriers to prevent trucks from entering the centre of the city.

Scanners to check lorries wanting access to the area where embassies and international organisations are located were also being used.

In August Afghan intelligence seized a truck in Kabul carrying more than 16 tonnes of explosives hidden in boxes marked as poultry feed.

But despite the enhanced security measures insurgents have continued to carry out carnage in the capital.

In the most recent major attack a suicide bomber disguised as a shepherd blew himself up near a Shiite mosque in Kabul last month killing six people.

Ordinary Afghans have borne the brunt of the 16-year insurgency, with more than 26,500 civilians killed and nearly 49,000 wounded as a result of armed conflict since January 2009, according to UN figures.

Suicide and militant attacks have been particularly deadly. Between January and September 1,584 civilians were killed and wounded in such incidents, the UN says, accounting for 20 per cent of casualties over the nine-month period.