Suicide attack in downtown Kabul kills bomber, injures seven _ including peacekeepers
Saturday, October 23rd 2004, 11:26 am
By: News On 6
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) _ A suicide attacker detonated grenades on a commercial street in downtown Kabul on Saturday, killing himself and wounding seven other people, including three foreign peacekeepers, officials said.
The man had about six grenades strapped to his body when they exploded on Chicken Street in the Afghan capital, said Kabul police chief Gen. Baba Jan.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which came two weeks after landmark presidential elections. The Taliban militia had threatened to disrupt the vote, but it passed off largely peacefully.
A witness, shopkeeper Abdul Wahid, said one Western woman was among those hurt. He said none appeared to be seriously injured.
The mutilated corpse of the attacker lay on the sidewalk, and the ground and a nearby carpet shop were spattered with blood.
The body lay next to a sports utility vehicle bearing the insignia of the NATO security force. The engine of the vehicle was still running, but its rear window was blown out and its front tires were flat.
A spokesman for the NATO-led peacekeeping force that patrols the city, Lt. Col. Patrick Poulain, said three explosions rocked the street at about 3:30 p.m., injuring seven people, including three peacekeepers and four civilians.
Two of the soldiers were slightly injured, and one ``more seriously,'' he said. He did not give their nationalities, but peacekeepers at the scene said some of the injured were Norwegians.
Police chief Jan gave a different account. He said the injured included four Afghan civilians and two peacekeepers.
His deputy, Gen. Shafiqulluh Fazeli, said two of the Afghans were hurt seriously: a beggar girl and a male passer-by.
Police and peacekeepers sealed off the street, the heart of Kabul's bustling downtown area, which is crammed with convenience stores and souvenir shops popular with foreign aid workers and soldiers.
Wahid, who runs a shop next door to where the attack happened, said he heard three explosions, rushed outside and saw five injured people: an injured Western woman, two foreign soldiers and two Afghan children _ a young girl who often begged there, and the 13-year-old son of a shopkeeper.
``I saw the beggar girl running down the street, her hands covered in blood,'' he told The Associated Press.
The boy, Muneer Ahmad, passed out after the blast, and suffered slight injuries to his head and torso.
``I was standing at the door of our shop and suddenly I heard an explosion. After that I didn't know anything,'' he said after being treated at an Italian-run hospital in the city.
The bandage around his head was spotted with blood.
Meanwhile, a bomb exploded near a U.S. military truck in eastern Nangahar province, damaging its windshield and injuring the hand of one Marine, military spokesman Maj. Mark McCann said.
The United Nations and the U.S. Embassy have urged foreigners in the capital to be on their guard in the election period, particularly since a car bomb at the office of a U.S. security contractor killed about 10 people, including three Americans, on Aug. 29.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for that attack, but security officials here have cast doubt on the willingness of Afghan militants to carry out suicide missions, suggesting al-Qaida may have been involved.
Two NATO soldiers _ one Canadian, one British _ died in back-to-back suicide bombings in Kabul in January. Conclusions from the investigations into those attacks have not been made public.
Saturday's attack came as Afghan interim leader Hamid Karzai appeared on the cusp of victory in the Oct. 9 election _ the country's first direct vote for its leader after a quarter-century of conflict.
With more than 80 percent of the votes counted by Saturday afternoon, the U.S.-backed incumbent had 54.6 percent of the vote, 37 points ahead of his nearest challenger, former Education Minister Yunus Qanooni.
Karzai needs to win more than half the estimated 8 million votes cast to prevent a run-off, and he was likely to reach that point in the coming days as counting continues.
However, official results could take another week.