Dozens killed in car bombing in Afghanistan
Blast in Paktika province one of deadliest terror attacks in country since 2001
The scene of the suicide bomb attack in Paktika. At least 89 people were killed and dozens more injured when the bomber detonated a car bomb near a police checkpoint . Photograph: Ahmadullah Ahmadi/EPA
A huge blast from a Toyota sport utility vehicle packed with explosives tore through a market in eastern Afghanistan on Tuesday, bringing down shops on the heads of shopkeepers and leaving the bloodied remains of men, women and children strewn in rubble. By late afternoon, at least 89 people were known to have been killed, the defence ministry said.
The bombing, in Paktika province, was one of the deadliest terror attacks in Afghanistan since 2001, and suspicion immediately fell on the Taliban or their Islamist militant allies. But the insurgents quickly denied any involvement. The market was filled mainly with civilians, and had little strategic value to either side in the war.
Afghan officials said the attack occurred in the Urgun district of Paktika, near a madrasa, or religious school, and in an area of the bazaar that was crowded with mechanics’ shops. But it devastated more than just the immediate surroundings. The defence ministry said the bomb went off at 10.30am, one of the busiest times of the day for shopping during Ramadan, a month when observant Muslims fast from dawn to sunset. The blast reverberated through the narrow lanes of the bazaar, collapsing tightly packed mud-and-wood structures that housed all kinds of shops, from auto repair garages to vegetable stands.
“There was blood everywhere, and we could see hundreds of people shouting and crying, including women and children,” said Sharafuddin (21), who owns a shop selling kitchenware. “I saw a woman dead while her two kids were crying sitting next to her, and they were covered in blood,” he said. “The entire area seems like graveyard with fresh blood on it.”
District governor Razaq Khan said that 42 dead were counted at the scene, and other officials said that more people were pronounced dead at hospitals and clinics in the province, which were said to be flooded with casualties. The ministry said that in addition to the dead, at least 42 people were wounded in the bombing. In the aftermath, Afghan soldiers helped sift through rubble while medics and ambulances evacuated the injured, said Maj Gen Zahir Azimi, the spokesman for the ministry.
Many of the wounded were being transferred to Sharana, the provincial capital, a relatively small city with limited medical facilities. The district where the attack took place is in a mountainous and remote area of the country near the border with Pakistan. Deadly Taliban bombings have tended to occur in major cities, such as the capital, Kabul, where an attack on a restaurant killed 21 people in January, and a bombing at a Shia shrine killed at least 63 people in December 2011. – (New York Times)