Afghanistan’s interior minister says the death toll from the massive suicide bombing in the capital Kabul has risen to at least 103 and the number of wounded has climbed to 235 as security officials warned that more attacks were possible.
Kabul residents reacted in despair and fear a day after an attacker drove an ambulance packed with explosives through a security checkpoint saying he was transferring a patient to hospital, before detonating the blast in a crowded city street.
There was a mix of helpless anger at the seemingly endless wave of attacks, with the attack coming just a week after Taliban militants killed 22 at an international hotel in the city.
“How are we to live? Where should we go?” asked shopkeeper Mohammad Hanif, who was in his shop near the site of the explosion when it went off.
“We have no security, we don’t have no proper government, what should we do?”
Interior Minister Wais Barmak said the casualty toll had risen to at least 103 dead and 235 wounded.
Men carry the coffin of a relative who died in Saturday’s deadly suicide attack in Kabul.
Photo: Men carry the coffin of a relative who died in Saturday’s deadly suicide attack in Kabul. (AP: Rahmat Gul)
He said at least two vehicles painted as ambulances were involved in the attack, one of which blew up when it was stopped at a police checkpoint.
The attack was the worst seen in the Afghan capital since a truck bomb near the German embassy killed 150 people in May.
“People were running everywhere to escape, there were wounded people lying on the ground, people with wounds to their arms, legs, heads,” Mr Hanif said.
Stalemate, failure, or more troops?
The war in Afghanistan may have been forgotten, but it’s not over, and US President Donald Trump must decide what happens now.
The blast was claimed by the Taliban, a week after their deadly attack on the city’s Intercontinental Hotel, in a calculated answer to US President Donald Trump’s new strategy in Afghanistan.
“The Islamic Emirate has a clear message for Trump and his hand kissers that if you go ahead with a policy of aggression and speak from the barrel of a gun, don’t expect Afghans to grow flowers in response,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement, using the term they use to describe themselves.
Mr Trump, who last year sent more American troops to Afghanistan and ordered an increase in air strikes and other assistance to Afghan forces, said the attack “renews our resolve and that of our Afghan partners”
After a deadly week in which an office of the aid group Save the Children in the eastern city of Jalalabad was also attacked, President Ashraf Ghani’s Western-backed government has faced growing pressure to improve security.
Despite a major tightening in checks following the May 31 attack, the ambulance was able to get through the checkpoints, apparently without difficulty.
“People don’t have work. There’s no life for people in Afghanistan,” shopkeeper Sameem said.
“People have to look for a life somewhere else, there’s nowhere.”
Ambulance attack draws global condemnation
Saturday’s attack, described as “an atrocity” by the head of the UN mission in Afghanistan, drew universal condemnation from neighbouring countries and allies who had expressed confidence that the new US strategy is producing results.
Following a recent visit to Kabul, the US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, said the strategy was working and pushing the insurgents closer to peace talks.
However, the Taliban have dismissed any suggestion that they have been weakened by the US approach and say they will only agree to talks when international forces leave Afghanistan.
The United States, which has accused Pakistan of giving assistance to the Taliban and has cut off some aid, urged all countries to take “decisive action” to stop the violence.
Pakistan, which denies the US accusations, condemned the attack and called for “concerted efforts and effective cooperation … to eradicate the scourge of terrorism”.
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