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Truck bomb in Kabul diplomatic quarter caused damage four kilometres away

June 1, 2017   by Rahim Faiez and Amir Shah - THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

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KABUL – Afghans mourned the loss of family members, friends and colleagues on Thursday, a day after a massive truck bomb exploded in the capital, leaving at least 90 people dead and more than 450 others wounded in one of the worst extremist attacks since the drawdown of foreign forces from Afghanistan in 2014.

The city’s acting mayor said the explosion damaged property as far as four kilometres away from the blast site and scores of people waited in hospitals to learn the status of family and friends wounded in the attack. Funeral processions took place throughout Kabul on Thursday.

The bomber drove into Kabul’s heavily guarded diplomatic quarter during the morning rush, leaving behind chaos and destruction. Most of the casualties were civilians, including women and children, but the dead also included Afghan security guards.

The German Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan after a truck bombing May 31, 2017. Photo by Rahmat Gul, The Associated Press

There was no claim of responsibility.

The explosives were hidden in a tanker truck used to clean out septic systems, according to Najib Danish, deputy spokesman for the interior minister. The trucks are common in Kabul, a city of nearly four million people with no sewage system that mostly depends on septic tanks, and where open sewers are common.

The blast gouged a crater about five metres deep near Zanbaq Square in the Wazir Akbar Khan district, where foreign embassies are protected by their own security personnel as well as Afghan police and National Security Forces. The nearby German Embassy was heavily damaged.

Also in the area is Afghanistan’s Foreign Ministry, the Presidential Palace and its intelligence and security headquarters, guarded by soldiers trained by the U.S. and its coalition partners.

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The city’s acting mayor said Thursday at a news conference that the bombing caused property damage as far as 4 kilometres (2.5 miles) away from the blast site. Abdullah Habibzai said an initial estimate put the total damage from the bombing at 1 billion Afghanis ($1.5 million), but said that number could rise.

He said city workers had removed around 200 large trucks of garbage and debris by Thursday morning.

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“We have transported a large number or a large amount of broken glass and windows,” he said.

A convoy made up of Canadian Forces vehicles travels down a road between Kabul and Kandahar in 2005. Photo by Master Corporal Ken Fenner, Canadian Forces

Hundreds gathered in a Kabul cemetery for the funeral of Zemarai Khan, a security guard who lost his life in the attack.

Jan Mohammad, Zamarai’s brother, said Zemarai died alongside nine of his fellow guards who worked for a private security company.

Mohammad said he saw news of the bombing on TV and tried to call his brother who never answered his phone. “From that moment I realized that my brother is dead,” he said.

He said transporting his brother’s body home was the hardest thing he’s ever done. “No one can imagine the moment that seven children of my brother realized that their father is not alive anymore, he said.

Meanwhile, some people were still missing and families were searching for news about loved ones in local hospitals.

Mohammad Sarwar stood crying behind the gate of an emergency hospital, looking for his nephew, Habibullah, who was missing.

“This is the second day that we are searching for my nephew Habibiullah and have been to all Kabul hospitals, still couldn’t find him,” he said.

Afghanistan’s war, the longest ever involving U.S. troops, has shown no sign of letting up and the introduction into the battle of an Islamic State group affiliate has made the country only more volatile.

Although they are small in number, militants from the Islamic State in Khorasan – an ancient name for parts of Afghanistan, Iran and Central Asia – have taken credit for several brazen assaults on the capital.