KABUL (AP) — A suicide car bomber struck a heavily guarded neighborhood Tuesday near the home of a former Afghan vice president and a hotel favored by Westerners, killing at least eight people and wounding dozens.
The brazen suicide attack underscored the precarious security situation in the heart of the Afghan capital. The blast was heard at the Foreign Ministry where officials and diplomats met to discuss government corruption.
Security officials at the scene suspect the bomber was going after the home of former vice president Ahmad Zia Massoud — the brother of famed anti-Taliban fighter Ahmad Shah Massoud, who was killed by al-Qaida two days before the Sept. 11 attacks.
“Of course we were the target,” said Shah Asmat, an aide to the former vice president. “Before, the Taliban killed Massoud. Now, they tried to kill his brother.”
Afghan President Hamid Karzai, during a speech he delivered at the conference on corruption, said two of Massoud’s guards were among those killed in the explosion.
Karzai condemned the bombing in a statement released later and ordered officials to find those responsible.
“This terrorist attack, which killed and wounded innocent civilians, was an attack on humanity and Islam,” Karzai said.
Four men and four women died in the suicide blast, Ministry of Interior spokesman Zemeri Bashary said, adding about 40 others were wounded.
In other violence across Afghanistan, two Afghan National Army soldiers were killed in Helmand province when a suicide bomber on a motorbike attacked a joint vehicle patrol of Afghan and international forces, said Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defense. Two other Afghan soldiers were wounded in the afternoon attack in Helmand’s Sangin district, he said.
NATO said a U.S. service member was killed in a bombing in southern Afghanistan on Tuesday, but it did not provide further details and it was unclear whether the Afghan and U.S. casualties were from the same incident.
Separately, in the eastern province of Paktia, five Afghans and a Nepalese national were killed in an explosion, said Gen. Azizdin Wardak, provincial police chief.
The midmorning attack in Kabul’s congested Wazir Akbar Khan district slightly damaged the Heetal Hotel, which is owned by the son of Burhanuddin Rabbani, who served as president of Afghanistan from 1992 until 1996. No hotel guests were among the dead or wounded.
Three homes, including the former vice president’s, were severely damaged and windows in nearby buildings were shattered. A large cloud of dark gray smoke rose from the area as firefighters worked to extinguish flames.
A witness at the scene, a 22-year-old English student at Kabul University, reported seeing a black, four-wheel drive vehicle near the hotel.
“It drove very slowly to the checkpoint,” said Hamayun Azizi. “And then it blew up.”
The explosion flipped the vehicle, which landed upside down about 10 yards (meters) from the blast site.
It was heard a few miles (kilometers) away by about 200 people gathered at the Foreign Ministry for a three-day conference on corruption in the Afghan government. Those at the conference paused for a moment after the blast. After a delay, the event began with Karzai’s speech.