Kabul, Afghanistan – At least three suicide bombers on Tuesday struck a crowded bazaar in southwestern Afghanistan and then at the gates of the hospital where victims were rushed for treatment, killing at least 29 people and injuring more than 100 others, officials said.
A short time later in northern Afghanistan, a bomb attached to a motorcycle killed 10 people and wounded more than two dozen others, according to officials in Kunduz province.
Both bombings came as people were flocking to shops for the holiday beginning this weekend that will mark the end of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting and prayer.
Taken together, the toll in the two attacks made for one of the deadliest days of the year, reflecting a spike in violence in the warm-weather months and complicating NATO’s plans to end the Western combat role and hand over responsibility for policing the country to Afghan forces by 2014.
The first of the two attacks took place in the town of Zaranj, the capital of Nimruz province, in southwestern Afghanistan. The carnage could have been even worse, but police arrested several would-be bombers in raids prior to the attack and killed or detained several more during it, said Abdul Majid Latifi, the provincial deputy police chief. Altogether, there may have been nearly a dozen assailants.
Latifi said the 29 dead were mainly civilians, but included four police officers.
Insurgents often stage complex attacks involving near-simultaneous bombings, and have sometimes targeted medical facilities, but the notion of deliberately hitting a hospital to which injured people were being brought was shocking even by this war’s grim standards.
In both Nimruz and Kunduz provinces, the targets were civilian areas, distant from any military installation. The NATO force is not even deployed in Nimruz.
Violence has been on the rise in Nimruz, which borders Iran, and also in the volatile Helmand province. Earlier this week, a policeman in Nimruz turned his weapon on fellow officers, killing 10.