x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Latest Kabul suicide bombing again shows capital's vulnerability

Afghans express anger at US and its allies after 28 die as they fear that this could be the start of a season of record bloodshed.

KABUL // A suicide car bomb killed six foreign soldiers and at least 12 civilians in Kabul yesterday, as insurgents again demonstrated their ability to strike inside Afghanistan's heavily fortified capital. The attack occurred in the south-west of the city at about 8.10am on a road frequently used by military convoys. The force of the blast could be felt more than a kilometre away and windows of nearby buildings, including the parliamentary offices, were shattered. It was the first major incident in the capital since February and could well be the opening shot in what many residents fear will be a season of record bloodshed. As is often the case, much of the anger yesterday was already being directed at the United States and its allies, rather than the Taliban. Almost nine years after the war began, international forces are increasingly associated with bringing turmoil to the country. Hussein Alami was at his job in an animal health clinic of Kabul University's faculty of veterinary science when the explosion happened. He rushed to the scene to help, only to be blocked off by foreign troops. He described seeing pieces of flesh and decapitated heads littering the surrounding area. Summing up the fate of a nation that is again being torn apart by internal conflict, he said: "We are killing ourselves. You [Nato] brought this insecurity to Afghanistan. If you were not here, we would be very safe. Last time we had good security." The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, saying they had used a van loaded with 750kg of explosives. This month, the militants declared the start of a new nationwide operation called Al-Faath, meaning "victory". They announced that they would target everyone, from military personnel and diplomats to government officials. Among the dead yesterday were five US troops and a Canadian soldier. At least 12 Afghan civilians were killed and about 50 people were wounded. Kabul is still relatively safe compared with much of the country. It boasts a heavy security presence on the streets in the form of checkpoints and guard posts. Yet, rocket attacks are fairly common and insurgent cells are believed to be constantly active in the city. For most people here, it is a question of when and not if another tragedy will occur. Mohammed Amin, 55, was at his roadside stall when the suicide bomber struck. He also blamed the international community for the violence now gripping Afghanistan, accusing it of creating bitter splits in society. "Allah knows who did this. A Muslim cannot do these kinds of actions," Mr Amin said. "If I tell you the truth, it is the foreigners who made this situation in Afghanistan. They have created divisions among Hazaras, Pashtuns, Tajiks and that is why we have insecurity." Yesterday's attack occurred in Darulaman Road, in the shadow of a palace built by a former king and then destroyed during the civil war that devastated Kabul from 1992 to 1996. Nearby are the graves of a group of legislators killed in 2007 and the site for a grand new parliament building that is awaiting construction. The current parliament is also a short distance away. It is an indication of how bad security is becoming that the rebels are strong in much of the surrounding countryside - the district of Chahar Asyab and the provinces of Maidan Wardak and Logar and all areas where the insurgency has support. Following his recent visit to the United States, Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, was holding a press conference when the blast happened. "I condemn this attack in the strongest terms and hope that Afghanistan one day gets rid of this," he said. A statement from Brig Gen Josef Blotz, a spokesman for Nato's Isaf force, said: "This will not deter us from our mission of securing a better future for this country." However, all the signs suggest that the goal remains as elusive as ever. Figures recently released by the ministry of interior show 173 Afghan civilians were killed between March 21 and April 21, a 33-per-cent increase from the corresponding period last year. Fatalities among foreign troops are also up, with more than 200 dead so far this year. The death toll stood at 119 in the first five months of last year. These numbers will probably rise significantly in coming months as Nato prepares to try to beat back the Taliban in the southern province of Kandahar and fighting continues to spread to the previously stable north. csands@thenational.ae