By Candace Rondeaux and Javed Hamdard
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, November 28, 2008
KABUL, Nov. 27 -- At least four people were killed and three injured Thursday in a suicide car bomb attack on a convoy of U.S. troops near the American Embassy in the Afghan capital.
The attack occurred around 8:30 a.m. when a man driving a Toyota Corolla detonated a load of explosives about 200 yards from the embassy as a line of U.S. military vehicles passed by. The powerful blast, which took place during rush hour in the heart of Kabul, damaged cars and blew out the windows of several apartments in a nearby high-rise building.
Witnesses and Afghan police said that the military convoy, however, was well out of range of the blast and that no American soldiers were injured. Although the explosion occurred only steps from the U.S. Embassy, there were no visible signs of damage.
Mirwais, a driver for a local aid agency who was on the road where the blast occurred, said the military convoy had already passed by when he saw the Corolla speed up in an attempt to catch up to it. "Suddenly there was a huge blast, and there was so much black smoke I could barely see," said Mirwais, who like many Afghans uses only one name. "All of the windows of my car were smashed, but I, thank God, survived."
There were conflicting reports about the number of casualties. Ali Shah Paktiawal, chief of the police investigation division in Kabul, said four Afghans were killed and three were wounded. But an Afghan intelligence official at the scene said seven people were killed and six were injured. All of the casualties were Afghan civilians.
The bombing marked the first major suicide attack inside Kabul in five months. While kidnappings and assassinations have become increasingly common in the city of 3.3 million people, bombings have largely been limited to areas near the southwestern edge of Kabul, where the Taliban have lately expanded their hold.
The last major attack inside Kabul took place July 7, when two suicide car bombers rammed their vehicles into the gates of the Indian Embassy, killing at least 60 people and wounding 140.
According to the Associated Press, about 20 people who were planning to participate in the U.S. Embassy's Thanksgiving Day footrace ended up locked inside a room at the embassy's security checkpoint immediately after the blast.
"I was about 30 or 40 yards inside the gate. There was a large explosion," Danny Cutherell, a 26-year-old aid worker from Virginia, told the wire service. "I felt the shock wave, though it wasn't all that strong. We were about 200 yards from the blast when it went off, but we were behind the embassy wall and that protected us."