KABUL — A bomb blast Friday at a Kabul supermarket that's popular with foreigners killed at least eight people, including three foreign nationals, police and witnesses said.
The Taliban immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, and said it was directed at the head of a U.S. security contractor that's operating in Afghanistan.
The target was a branch of Finest, a Western-style supermarket, in Wazir Akbar Khan, an affluent part of the city where several embassies are. The area has a security cordon around it, and the attack was sure to rattle the large contingent of diplomats, news media and aid workers based there.
"It was a suicide attack, and the legs of the attacker remained" behind, according to one of the supermarket owners, who declined to give his name because of the sensitivity of the issue.
There had been no previous threat, the owner added.
The attack, in which five supermarket employees were wounded, shattered a period of calm in the Afghan capital over the last several months.
"There were three or four shots fired, then an explosion. There was smoke coming out of Finest," said Ahmad Zaki, 33, an electrician who was across the street from the incident. He said he counted eight bodies.
Kabul's police chief, Mohammad Ayub Salangi, said at the scene that eight were killed, including three foreigners, and seven were wounded.
A McClatchy reporter at the site saw many Westerners, who seemed to work for a private security company or embassies, outside the supermarket after the bombing.
A representative of the U.S. Embassy said they were checking whether Americans were among the victims. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said in a statement that the attack was directed at the "chief" of Blackwater, a controversial security contractor now known as Xe Services. It wasn’t clear whether the Taliban had hit Xe contract employees.
According to Mujahid, "The attacker first targeted Blackwater soldiers with his gun, then detonating his suicide vest, killing the chief and a number of Blackwater company soldiers."
Afghan President Hamid Karzai strongly condemned the attack.
The "enemies of Afghanistan are murdering civilians, including women, inside a market without differentiation," he said in a statement, calling it an inhuman and shameful act.
"With doing these kind of acts the enemies of Afghan people will not get anything rather than hatred of the people," his statement added.
Earlier this week, a senior Afghan security official, speaking only on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, told McClatchy that Kabul was under threat in the days around the inauguration of parliament, which took place Wednesday.
Earlier this week, U.S. Gen. David Petraeus, who heads the international force in Afghanistan, boasted in a letter to his troops that security in and around Kabul had improved in recent months.