KABUL — A suicide bomber killed eight Afghans on Tuesday blocks from the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, in an attack that targeted a neighborhood in which many former and current Afghan officials live.
Afghan officials said the dead comprised four men and four women and that more than 40 people were wounded. Two witnesses said they saw a police officer lying dead near the blast, but a government spokesman said all the casualties were civilians.
President Hamid Karzai issued a statement Tuesday afternoon calling the attack "an inhuman and un-Islamic act of terror."
Investigators wouldn't 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 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 Vice President Ahmad Zia Massoud also lives near the site, but he wasn't home at the time of the attack. Nearby concrete barriers shielded his home from the blast.
Massoud is the brother of Ahmad Shah Massoud, the former leader of the Taliban-fighting northern alliance, whom an al Qaida suicide bomber killed on Sept. 9, 2001, in an attack that was a precursor to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist strikes in the United States.
Ahmad Zia Massoud served as vice president under Karzai until November. He's the son-in-law of former President Burhanuddin Rabbani, who now leads the United National Front, a major Afghan political party.
The attack destroyed the home of former Kabul Police Chief Salim Ehsas, who sustained only minor injuries, according to a witness.
Several witnesses described the grisly scene shortly after the blast, which shook the city shortly before 10 a.m. local time.
“When I came out, I saw there was one car burning down,” said Saifurrehman, a 34-year-old security guard, who like many Afghans uses only one name. He was referring to a nearby vehicle that wasn't involved in the attack. “They took out one person from the car and he was burning.”
Responders attempted to extinguish a burning man by hitting him with a pillow, according to another witness.
The explosion reduced the car to its frame, and left a 6-foot-deep crater.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack. A phone call to a Taliban spokesman wasn't returned.
The bombing was the first large-scale attack in the Afghan capital for several months, and it came 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 Barack Obama’s “surge” in troops.
Karzai was hosting a large anti-corruption summit in Kabul beginning Tuesday. He's likely to announce his second-term Cabinet selections in coming days.
Day reports for The Telegraph of Macon, Ga. Shukoor is a McClatchy special correspondent.
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