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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 December 2018

Afghan residents in despair after Kabul ambulance attack

'How are we to live? Where should we go?' asked shopkeeper Mohammad Hanif, who was in his shop near the site of the blast when the bomb went off

An Afghan shopkeeper looks at the broken window of his shop near the site of a bomb attack in Kabul a day before, on January 28, 2018. Omar Sobhani / Reuters
An Afghan shopkeeper looks at the broken window of his shop near the site of a bomb attack in Kabul a day before, on January 28, 2018. Omar Sobhani / Reuters

Kabul residents were in despair on Sunday, a day after a suicide bomb in the centre of the city killed and wounded more than 250 people in the worst attack seen in the Afghan capital in months.

With security officials warning that more attacks were possible after an ambulance packed with explosives blew up in a crowded city street on Saturday, there was a sense of helpless anger at the seemingly endless wave of attacks.

"How are we to live? Where should we go?" asked shopkeeper Mohammad Hanif, who was in his shop near the site of the explosion when it went off.

"We have no security, we don't have a proper government, what should we do?"

At least 95 people were killed and 158 wounded in the blast, which was claimed by the Taliban, a week after the militants claimed a deadly attack on the city's Intercontinental Hotel.

It was the worst attack seen in the Afghan capital since a truck bomb went off near the German embassy in May last year, killing 150 people.

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"People were running everywhere to escape, there were wounded people lying on the ground, people with wounds to their arms, legs, heads," Mr Hanif said.

After a deadly week in which an office of the aid group Save the Children in the eastern city of Jalalabad was also attacked, president Ashraf Ghani's government has faced growing pressure to improve security.

Despite a major tightening in checks following last year's May 31 attack, the ambulance was able to get through checkpoints on Saturday, 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 another shopkeeper named Sameem.

The attack, described as "an atrocity" by the head of the United Nations mission in Afghanistan, drew universal condemnation from allies and neighbouring countries.

US 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, said the attack "renews our resolve and that of our Afghan partners".

US officials have said the new strategy is putting pressure on the Taliban.

Following a recent visit to Kabul, US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said the strategy was working and pushing the insurgents closer to peace talks.

But the Taliban dismiss suggestions they have been weakened by the US approach and say they will only agree to talks when international forces leave Afghanistan.

Saturday's attack, in one of the most heavily protected parts of the city, close to foreign embassies and government buildings, demonstrated that the militants' ability to mount deadly high-profile attacks that undermine confidence in the government remains undiminished.