Six killed in Afghanistan suicide bomb attack

Explosion near compound where talks are due to be held next week on security pact with US

A fireman hoses a road next to a destroyed bus at the scene of a suicide attack in Kabul today. Photograph: Omar Sobhani/Reuters

A fireman hoses a road next to a destroyed bus at the scene of a suicide attack in Kabul today. Photograph: Omar Sobhani/Reuters

 

A suicide bomber rammed his car into an Afghan army vehicle providing security for a compound where Afghanistan’s political and tribal elites are due to gather next week to debate a security pact with the United States.

Today’s attack took place just hours after President Hamid Karzai called on the Taliban to take part in the Loya Jirga assembly that convenes on Thursday to decide whether to allow some US troops to stay in Afghanistan after 2014.

At least six people were killed and 22 wounded in the blast, according to an Interior Ministry spokesman. He said the casualties were a mix of soldiers and civilians.

The blast was fewer than 100m from a huge tent where more than 2,000 prominent Afghans are due to gather. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.

One man fleeing the bombing, Mohammad Amin, described seeing a white Totoya Corolla vehicle speed towards a police checkpoint and then explode. Covered in blood and dust, he said he was standing across the street behind his parked car when the blast occurred. “Thank God my car protected me because it was so close. My ears are still ringing,” he said.

A loya jirga is a traditional Afghan meeting convened to debate matters of national importance and includes thousands of tribal elders, politicians and other elites.

For almost a year, Washington and Kabul have been seeking to conclude a Bilateral Security Agreement that will help determine how many US soldiers and bases remain in Afghanistan after most foreign combat troops exit by the end of next year. The lack of agreement has raised the prospect that Washington may yet pull out all of its troops next year unless differences are ironed out.

Senior US and Nato officials said last month they were confident Afghanistan’s elders and parliament would back the deal allowing US troops to stay after 2014.

Two years ago, the United States ended its military mission in Iraq with a similar “zero option” outcome after the failure of talks with Baghdad.

Earlier today, Mr Karzai called on the Taliban to put down their guns and participate in the assembly. “We hope by all means that they participate in the Loya Jirga,” said Mr Karzai, who is keen to find a negotiated political solution to years of fighting with the Taliban.

“They are our countrymen and they have the right to be part of such meetings,” he said. “I once again invite them to please come and participate in the people’s national meeting.”

Reuters