Friday, 26 Feb, 2010 1:41 pm
KABUL : Taliban suicide bombers targeted private guesthouses in the centre of Kabul on Friday, killing 17 people including foreigners in one of the deadliest attacks on the Afghan capital in a year.
The Islamist militia, which is waging a vicious insurgency against the Western-backed Afghan government and more than 121,000 foreign troops based in the country, claimed responsibility for the attack in a telephone call to AFP.
A huge explosion and at least two smaller blasts rang out around the Safi Landmark shopping and hotel complex soon after dawn on Friday as Afghanistan commemorated Milad-Ul Nabi, the birthday of Muslim prophet Mohammed.
Afghan officials said a suicide car bomber carried out the attack and that two other would-be attackers were shot dead by police.
Sporadic gunfire rattled through the area as ambulances raced to the scene and grey smoke billowed into the air. Witnesses said people in pyjamas were led from a guesthouse in the area and taken away in ambulances.
The heavily fortified centre of Kabul has been relatively calm since January 18, when Taliban gunmen stormed the city's commercial heart, taking over buildings, detonating suicide vests and killing at least five people.
Friday's assault was the worst attack in Kabul since thousands of US-led troops launched a major offensive to capture a key Taliban bastion in southern Afghanistan as part of a new strategy to end an eight-year war.
Shattered glass carpeted the road outside the Park Residence Hotel, a guesthouse frequented by foreigners in the centre of the city. An AFP reporter said there appeared to be a large crater in the road outside.
Police commandos were seen using ladders to scale the glass outside wall of the guesthouse.
An AFP photographer saw terrified people escaping through windows and climbing down scaffolding to escape the Park Residence, and an AFP reporter saw a body in police uniform being brought out of the hotel.
"There were three bombers. One in the car which exploded, the two others at the Park Residence," said Sayed Abdul Ghafar Sayedzada, Kabul criminal police chief.
The interior ministry said the two other would-be bombers were shot dead and played down witness reports that other gunmen had entered the Safi Landmark.
At least one Indian was killed and six others wounded, said Colonel Mohammad Yaqoud Noorzai, duty doctor at the Sardar Mohammad Daud Khan military hospital.
Sayedzada said foreigners and police were among 17 people killed in what was one of the deadliest attacks in Kabul since three Taliban suicide bombers killed at least 26 people on February 11, 2009.
A Taliban spokesman claimed the attack.
"There were eight of our people. One of them detonated his car bomb in front of the Indians' hotel, two others also carried out suicide bombings. The rest of our people are still there," Zabihullah Mujahed told AFP by telephone.
Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2010
(See photos of the battle in Afghanistan's Kunar province.)
"Today's suicide attack took place in our residential complex. We are representing India," Dr. Surbod Sanjiv Paul of India said at a military hospital, where his wounded foot was bandaged.
Read more: http://www.time.com/...l#ixzz0gdT9HmSd