Kabul bombings leave at least 50 dead and hundreds wounded
Most violent day since records of civilian casualties began in 2009
Afghan women donate blood for the victims of the August 7th Kabul suicide bomb attacks. Photograph: Aref Karimi/AFP/Getty Images
A wave of attacks on the Afghan army, police and US special forces in Kabul have killed at least 50 people and wounded hundreds, dimming hopes that the Taliban might be weakened by a leadership struggle after their longtime leader’s death.
The bloodshed began on Friday with a truck bomb exploded in a heavily populated district and included an hours-long battle at a base used by US special forces. It became the deadliest day in Kabul for years.
The Islamist insurgents claimed responsibility for both the police academy attack and the battle at the US special forces base, though not for the truck bomb.
The violence was a reminder of the difficulty of reviving a stalled peace process, conveying a no-compromise message from the Taliban following the late July revelation of Mullah Mohammad Omar’s death and a dispute over the leadership of the insurgency.
“The question is, who is sending the message?” said Thomas Ruttig of the Afghanistan Analysts Network.
The UN mission in Afghanistan said Friday was the most violent day since it began recording civilian casualties in 2009, with 355 civilians killed or injured.
On Saturday, NATO-led coalition forces confirmed that eight Afghan contractors and one international force member had been killed in the attack on Camp Integrity, a base used by US special forces near the airport.
The blast outside the base was powerful enough to flatten offices inside, wounding occupants who were airlifted by helicopter to military hospitals.
The initial blast caused by a suicide car bomb at the gate was followed by other explosions and a firefight that lasted a couple of hours, he said.
A US spokesman for the NATO mission in Afghanistan said the Taliban had increasingly turned to high profile attacks.
The Camp Integrity assault followed a suicide bombing at a police academy on Friday evening that killed and wounded more than 40 people, the Interior Ministry said. A police source said the final tally was higher - 26 killed and 28 wounded.
“The bomber was wearing a police uniform and detonated his explosives among students who had just returned from a break,” a police official said.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the insurgents had launched both the police academy and Camp Integrity attacks, but not Friday’s truck bomb, which tore through buildings in central Kabul, killing at least 15 people and wounding 248.
The Taliban, who were toppled from power by a US-led military intervention in 2001, rarely admit to attacks that kill a high number of civilians.
The insurgents also struck in the north, claiming responsibility for a suicide attack in Kunduz province on Saturday that killed 22 members of a militia backing the government.
Divisions have broken out within the Taliban high command following the appointment of Mullah Akhtar Mansour as leader. Previously seen as open to reviving peace talks, he has since pledged to press on with the insurgency, which has killed or wounded thousands this year.
The conflict between the Western-backed government and the Taliban has intensified since the NATO combat mission ended last year, but Afghan security forces and civilians have borne the brunt of the violence.
Almost 5,000 civilians were killed or wounded in the first half of the year, according to UN figures.