[But the explosions on Monday had many in Kabul particularly worried. The loss of senior security personnel suggested that the Taliban had studied the Afghan forces’ response to their assaults. After most attacks in Kabul and the provinces, senior officials —– sometimes even ministers — rush to the scene.]
By Mujib Mashal And Jawad Sukhanyar
An attack by Taliban suicide bombers in a busy area near the defense ministry in
Kabul killed at least 20 people, the deadliest toll in the Afghan capital in weeks.
By ELSA BUTLER on Publish Date September 5, 2016. Photo by Mohammad
Ismail/Reuters. Watch in Times Video »
KABUL, Afghanistan — A pair of coordinated Taliban bombings targeted the Afghan Defense Ministry in a crowded neighborhood of Kabul on Monday, officials said, killing at least 24 people and wounding dozens, among them senior security officials.
Sediq Sediqqi, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said an army general and a police colonel in charge of the area’s security were among the dead. Other officials said the deputy director of President Ashraf Ghani’s elite protection force had also been killed.
At least 50 people were wounded, Mr. Sediqqi said. A spokesman for the Health Ministry put that number at 91.
Hours later, just before midnight, a third explosion shook much of the city. Witnesses said that a car bomb had exploded outside a guesthouse near Kabul Bank, in the downtown Shar-e Naw neighborhood, and that gunmen had then tried to enter the house. Police special forces rushed to the scene, and sporadic gunfire could be heard.
The Defense Ministry is near a crowded bazaar along the Kabul River, and the earlier explosions happened just as official hours were ending and government employees were heading home. The presidential palace and several other government agencies are also in the area.
Mohammad Radmanish, a Defense Ministry spokesman, said both blasts had been suicide bombings. The first bomber detonated his explosives by a bridge outside the entrance to the ministry around 3:30 p.m.
“When people and security forces arrived for help, the second attacker blew himself up among the crowd,” Mr. Radmanish said.
Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, said in a statement to the news media that his group was responsible for the explosions. The Taliban’s statement said the first blast had been caused by placed explosives, and that the second one had been a suicide bombing.
The bombings were the latest in a summer-long wave of attacks on government or Western targets in the capital, including a complex attack by gunmen with suicide vests on the American University that killed 13 people a week and a half ago.
But the explosions on Monday had many in Kabul particularly worried. The loss of senior security personnel suggested that the Taliban had studied the Afghan forces’ response to their assaults. After most attacks in Kabul and the provinces, senior officials —– sometimes even ministers — rush to the scene.
The Taliban’s repeated assaults on well-protected targets at the heart of the capital have added to the pressure on the already burdened security forces. The insurgency is not their only worry in the chaotic city: In addition to regular crime, they have been stretched by street protests as well as skirmishes between rival political groups.
Even as blood from the first two bombings was being washed away on Monday, bodyguards for rival strongmen got into a shootout in a different corner of the city. Before the police reached the scene and cordoned off the area, one person was killed and three were wounded.
Zahra Nader contributed reporting.