Kabul, Afghanistan – A suicide bomber killed eight Afghan civilians Tuesday blocks from the U.S. Embassy here in an attack that targeted a neighborhood where many former and current Afghan officials live.
Afghan officials said the dead included four men and four women and that more than 40 were injured. Two witnesses said they saw an Afghan police officer lying dead near the blast, but a government spokesman said all of the causalities were civilians.
Investigators would not speculate on who may have been the target of the attack, only that “this is the work of the enemies of Afghanistan,” said Najib Nikzad, a spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of the Interior.
The Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood is a favorite of Afghan officials and foreign diplomats. The U.S. Embassy is just blocks from the site of the attack — the bomber is likely to have driven past it — and the Heetal Hotel, a favorite among foreign diplomats, is across the street.
Former Afghan Vice President Ahmad Zia Massoud also lives near the site of the attack. Massoud was not at home at the time of the attack. His home was shielded from the blast by nearby concrete barriers.
Massoud is the brother of Ahmad Shah Massoud, the former leader of the Northern Alliance who was killed by an Al Qaida suicide bomber on Sept. 9, 2001, in an attack that was a precursor to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist strikes in the United States. He served as vice president under President Hamid Karzai until November. He’s also the son-in-law of former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani, who now leads the United National Front, a major Afghan political party.
The home of former Kabul Police chief Salim Ehsas was destroyed in the attack; Ehsas sustained only minor injuries, according to a witness.
The grisly scene was described by several witnesses shortly after the blast, which shook the city shortly before 10:00 a.m.
“When I came out, I saw there was one car burning down,” said Saifurrehman, a 34-year-old security guard, referring to a nearby vehicle that was not behind the attack. “They took out one person from the car and he was burning.”
Responders attempted to extinguish a burning Afghan citizen by hitting him with a pillow, according to another witness.
The explosion reduced the car to its frame, leaving a six-foot deep crater.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack. A phone call to a Taliban spokesman was not returned.
The bombing was the first large-scale attack in the Afghan capital for several months and comes as U.S. strategy in the country reaches a turning point.
Several thousand U.S. Marines are expected to arrive in Afghanistan’s southern provinces in the coming weeks as a part of President Obama’s “surge” in troops.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai was to host a large anti-corruption summit in Kabul Monday. Karzai is likely to announce his second-term cabinet selections in the coming days.