Suicide blast hits British embassy vehicle, kills five Afghans
A suicide bomber rammed his explosives-packed car into a British embassy vehicle in Kabul on Thursday, killing at least five Afghans and wounding 34 bystanders in the latest blast to hit the city.
British embassy staff were also injured in the attack, though no further details were immediately released. Among the bystanders injured were five children, officials said.
The huge explosion could be heard across Kabul and a plume of smoke rose above the attack site on the Jalalabad road, a main route that houses many foreign compounds and military facilities.
The attack, coming three days after two US soldiers were killed in another bomb blast in Kabul, highlights the fragile security situation in the Afghan capital as foreign forces end their combat mission against the Taliban.
The Taliban said they were behind Thursday's attack in a message on a recognised Twitter account, claiming that many foreigners had been killed.
Immediately after the blast, an AFP reporter saw one badly-shaken foreign passenger talking to Afghan police, asking after his wounded colleagues.
A policeman at the scene said one Afghan in the British vehicle had suffered a serious arm injury, and that passengers covered in blood had been taken to hospital.
The embassy's 4x4 vehicle was thrown onto its side, with the roof blown off and fittings scattered across the road.
British ambassador Richard Stagg was at a televised meeting and not in the vehicle when it was hit.
"We can confirm that a British embassy vehicle has been attacked in Kabul. A number of staff have been injured," a British foreign office spokeswoman said.
"We are working with the Afghan authorities to establish details of the incident."
Afghan officials at first reported the bomber was on a motorbike, but later said he was driving a Toyota Corolla car.
- Kabul blasts -
Kenishka Turkistani, spokesmen for the ministry of public health, said five bystanders were killed and 34 wounded in the attack.
"They are all Afghan civilians, the wounded include five children. We don't record foreign casualties," Turkistani said.
Zarif Khan, a shopkeeper, told AFP: "I was selling groceries when I heard this big bang, and then I saw injured people and pieces of metal all around me."
War-torn Afghanistan suffered its deadliest attack of 2014 on Sunday when a suicide bomber struck at a volleyball match in the eastern province of Paktika, killing 57 people.
At least seven blasts have hit Kabul over the last ten days, including attacks on foreign compounds and on a female Afghan MP who was injured in a suicide bombing that targeted her car.
Fears are growing that Afghanistan could tip into a cycle of violence as the NATO military presence declines, with the national security forces already suffering high battlefield casualties.
The US-led NATO combat mission in Afghanistan will finish at the end of this year, with about 12,500 troops staying on into 2015 to train and support the Afghan army and police.
President Ashraf Ghani, who came to power in September, has vowed to bring peace to Afghanistan after decades of conflict, saying he is open to talks with the Taliban, who ruled Kabul from 1996 to 2001.
Ghani finally emerged as president after signing a power-sharing deal with his poll rival Abdullah Abdullah.
Both men claimed to have won fraud-tainted elections in a prolonged stand-off that caused political paralysis in Kabul and fuelled worsening violence nationwide.
Britain this week ended its 13-year military presence in southern Afghanistan when the last Royal Air Force personnel departed Kandahar airfield.
The British military contribution next year will be the supervision of an officers' training academy outside Kabul.
© 2014 AFP