1 killed, others injuries in suicide bomb explosion near hotel in Kabul

By Rahim Faiez, AP
Tuesday, December 15, 2009

1 killed in suicide bomb blast near hotel in Kabul

KABUL — A suicide car bomber Tuesday struck near a hotel favored by Westerners in a heavily guarded neighborhood of the Afghan capital, killing at least one person and wounding more than a dozen others, officials and witnesses said.

Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi, a spokesman for the Defense Ministry, confirmed the suicide attack. The ministry said one Afghan civilian was killed and 16 other people with injuries were transferred to a hospital. Several hotel guards at the scene suffered cuts to their faces.

The midmorning blast, in Kabul’s Wazir Akbar Khan district, damaged the Heetal Hotel, which is owned by the son of Burhanuddin Rabbani, who served as president of Afghanistan from 1992 until 1996.

An Afghan intelligence official in charge of security for the hotel said no hotel customers were injured. The official, who declined to be named because he was not authorized to provide information about the blast, said he did not think the hotel was the target because the explosion occurred about 30 meters (30 yards) from the entrance to the hotel. The official, who suffered cuts to his face, was standing in the front of the hotel when the explosion occurred.

The hotel was only slightly damaged. Three homes nearby were severely damaged and windows in nearby buildings were shattered. A large cloud of dark gray smoke rose from the area as firefighters worked to extinguish flames from the burning vehicle.

A witness at the scene, a 22-year-old English student at Kabul University, reported seeing a black four-wheeled drive vehicle near the hotel.

“It drove very slowly to the checkpoint” of the hotel, said Hamayun Azizi. “And then it blew up.”

The explosion flipped the vehicle, which landed upside down about 10 meters from the blast site, according to a witness at the scene. The blast, which occurred at the entrance to a street leading to the hotel, created a crater, roughly 1 meter deep and 2 meters wide, in the street.

Members of the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police secured the area.

The explosion was heard a few kilometers (miles) away by about 200 people gathered at the Foreign Ministry for a three-day conference on corruption in the Afghan government. Those at the conference paused for a moment after the blast. After a delay, the event began with a speech by Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Separately, five Afghans and a Napalese national, were killed in an explosion that occurred at a foreign organization operating in Paktia province, said Gen. Azizdin Wardak, police chief of Paktia province in eastern Afghanistan. No other details were available.

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