19 hurt as suicide bomber targets NATO convoy in Kabul
At least 19 civilians were injured when a suicide attacker driving a vehicle packed with explosives targeted a NATO military convoy in the Afghan capital, Kabul, AP reported. The blast took place on the airport road, near the US embassy and the diplomatic quarter.
“It was a suicide car bomber, there are casualties but it is too early to know the extent of the damage,” said Kabul deputy police chief Sayed Gulagha.
A spokesman for the NATO mission in Afghanistan, U.S. Army Col. Brian Tribus, said that a coalition convoy had been attacked. “No coalition casualties were caused by the attack,” he said.
Chief of Kabul hospitals for the Ministry of Public Health, Kabir Amiri, said so far 19 people were wounded, including four children and three women.
Witnesses said the attack happened during early afternoon prayers, and that people who rushed out of a nearby mosque had attacked the foreign soldiers and journalists, throwing stones at them.
The blast badly damaged at least two of the heavily armed military vehicles in the convoy. The nationality of the coalition soldiers was not immediately clear.
The explosion that happened at 1.20 pm. sent a huge plume of black smoke over the city.
It happened as government employees were leaving their offices and roads were choked with vehicles as the working day is shortened during the Ramadan fasting month.
Witness Ahmad Farhad said: “I saw a Toyota Corolla target the convoy of foreign forces, I saw two to three damaged vehicles and wounded victims were everywhere and there was no one to help them.”
The incident comes a week after an audacious attack on the nation’s parliament, which highlighted the ability of insurgents, who have been fighting to overthrow the Kabul government for almost 14 years, to enter the highly fortified capital to stage deadly attacks.
Also on Tuesday, a suspected suicide car bomber detonated his explosives near to provincial police headquarters of southwestern Helmand province, leaving two people dead and 51, mostly civilians, injured, Afghanistan Times reported.
The bomber hit boundary wall of the police headquarters and jolt the city that left at least two civilians dead and 51 civilians injured, provincial police chief, Nabi Jan Mullah Khil said.
One other suicide bomber tried to enter the building but was shot dead by security forces he said.
In eastern Paktya province, three people were killed and one wounded when their vehicle hit a roadside mine, the provincial police chief Zalmai Oryakhel said.
IS loyalists gaining ground
Fighters loyal to Islamic State have seized substantial territory in Afghanistan for the first time wresting areas in the east from rival Taliban insurgents in a new threat to stability, Reuters reported.
Witnesses who fled fighting in Nangarhar province said on Tuesday that hundreds of insurgents pledging allegiance to Islamic State pushed out the Taliban, scorching opium poppy fields that help to fund the Taliban’s campaign to overthrow the Afghan government.
They also distributed directives purportedly from Islamic State’s Middle East-based chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, although it was not clear whether he issued them for the Afghan theatre or if previous edicts may have been translated.
“They (IS loyalists) came in on many white pickup trucks mounted with big machine guns and fought the Taliban. The Taliban could not resist and fled,” said Haji Abdul Jan, a tribal elder from Achin district.
Jan, who saw the early June clashes before fleeing to the provincial capital of Jalalabad, said some villagers welcomed the new arrivals.
“Unlike the Taliban, they (IS) don’t force villagers to feed and house them. Instead, they have lots of cash in their pockets and spend it on food and luring young villagers to join them.”
Their accounts are the clearest sign yet that, beyond a few defections by low-level Taliban leaders and sporadic attacks, Islamic State sympathisers pose a more persistent threat.
IS loyalists, mostly former Taliban disillusioned by the movement’s unsuccessful bid to return to power in Kabul, are accompanied by dozens of foreign fighters, witnesses said.
The IS’s black flag has been hoisted in some areas, and foreign fighters preach in mosques through translators.
The identity of the non-Afghan insurgents is not known. Hundreds of militants from around the world already hide out along the Afghan-Pakistan border.
Links to Syria
A BBC report quoting a senior US commander in Afghanistan said fighters allied with IS are in contact with the militants’ Syrian headquarters.
Gen Sean Swindell, leader of the unit training Afghan special forces, said on Tuesday that disgruntled Taliban fighters have established a “franchise”.
But he added that IS in Afghanistan is not as serious as in Libya or Iraq.