Supermarket blast in Kabul diplomatic district kills at least 8 and injures 6

Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, January 29, 2011

KABUL - An explosion in a supermarket in the heart of Kabul's diplomatic district Friday afternoon killed at least eight people, including three foreign women, according to Afghan police.

The blast, which injured six, gutted the Finest supermarket, a store popular with American and other foreign workers, in a normally peaceful neighborhood not far from the British and Canadian embassies.

Witnesses said the attack began with gunfire, followed by at least one explosion inside the store. Some said a lone gunman wearing a suicide vest entered and started shooting before detonating himself. Kabul's police chief, Gen. Ayoub Salangi, said it was unclear what type of explosion occurred.

"The enemy of Afghanistan did this - the Taliban," Salangi said.

Such scenes have become relatively rare in the capital in recent months, even as violence has risen across Afghanistan to its highest levels of the nine-year war. The most recent major deadly bombing in the city was in May, when a car bomb struck a NATO convoy and killed 18 people.

The lull has been so pronounced that some Afghan officials say they think the Haqqani insurgent group, which has been held responsible for many attacks in Kabul, had negotiated some type of cease-fire with the Afghan and Pakistani governments. NATO officials and senior members of Afghan President Hamid Karzai's administration denied that was the case and attributed the respite to aggressive efforts to break up plots before they could be carried out.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid asserted responsibility for Friday's attack and said the target was the head of Blackwater, the private security firm now known as Xe Services, which provides mobile security for U.S. diplomats in Afghanistan. Salangi said there was no evidence to back up that claim.

The identities of the victims were not immediately released, and U.S. officials did not confirm whether any Americans were among the dead or injured.

If the bombing marks the beginning of a new wave of attacks against foreign interests in Afghanistan, it could restrict the movements of diplomats and aid workers, who now travel around town with relative freedom. Kabul has also has shown evidence recently of renewed economic vibrancy, with many construction projects underway that could stall if security deteriorates.

Special correspondent Javed Hamdard contributed to this report.

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