Suicide bomb attack occurs near former Afghan vice president’s home; 8 killed, 40 wounded

By Rahim Faiez, AP
Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Suicide bombing blast near former VP home in Kabul

KABUL — A suicide car bomber struck Tuesday near the home of a former Afghan vice president and a hotel favored by Westerners, killing at least eight people and wounding dozens in one of the safest neighborhoods in the city.

Afghan police officials said the target of the bombing had not been confirmed. But security officials at the scene suspect the bomber was going after the home of former Vice President Ahmad Zia Massoud — brother of famed anti-Taliban fighter Ahmad Shah Massoud, who was killed by al-Qaida two days before the Sept. 11 attacks.

“Of course we were the target,” said Shah Asmat, an aide. “Before, the Taliban killed Massoud. Now, they tried to kill his brother.”

The brazen attack, near the base of a hill with a huge billboard portrait of the late Massoud, underscored the uneven security controls in the heart of the Afghan capital. Many of the neighborhood’s buildings have armed guards, and checkpoints are set up at a few strategic locations around the city.

But the guards rarely search cars traveling on public streets.

The explosion was heard a few miles (kilometers) away at the Foreign Ministry where about 200 officials and diplomats met to discuss corruption in the Afghan government

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, during a speech at the conference, said two of Massoud’s guards were among those killed in the explosion.

Karzai condemned the bombing in a statement released later and ordered officials to find those responsible.

“This terrorist attack, which killed and wounded innocent civilians, was an attack on humanity and Islam,” Karzai said.

Four men and four women died in the suicide blast and 40 other people were wounded, said Ministry of Interior spokesman Zemeri Bashary.

Former Kabul police chief Salim Asas, who lives in a house near the explosion, and a family member were injured and another relative was killed, according to Abdul Ghafor Sayedzada, chief of criminal investigation for the Kabul police.

The midmorning attack in Kabul’s congested Wazir Akbar Khan district slightly damaged the Heetal Hotel, which is owned by the son of Burhanuddin Rabbani, who served as president of Afghanistan from 1992 until 1996. No hotel guests were among the dead or wounded.

Three homes, including the former vice president’s, 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.

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

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

The explosion flipped the vehicle, which landed upside down about 10 yards (meters) from the blast site.

Ahmad Zia Massoud served as vice president in Karzai’s first administration.

In other violence across Afghanistan, two Afghan National Army soldiers were killed in Helmand province when a suicide bomber on a motorbike attacked a joint vehicle patrol of Afghan and international forces, said Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defense. Two other Afghan soldiers were wounded in the afternoon attack in Helmand’s Sangin district, he said.

NATO said a U.S. service member was killed in a bombing in southern Afghanistan on Tuesday, but it did not provide further details.

A 19-year-old sergeant from the Estonian army also was killed Tuesday in an explosion after his unit was ambushed by insurgents in Helmand, according to the Defense Ministry in Estonia’s capital Tallinn.

Separately, a blast occurred Tuesday at the compound of Development Alternatives Inc., a Bethesda, Maryland-based consulting firm on contract to USAID, in Paktia province, the U.S. Embassy said. There were no U.S. casualties, but provincial police chief Gen. Azizdin Wardak said five Afghans and a Nepalese national were killed.

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