New York Times
KABUL, Afghanistan — Less than two hours after President Obama left Afghanistan airspace on Wednesday, explosions shook the capital and the Interior Ministry said a suicide attacker had exploded a large bomb at the gates of a compound used by foreigners in the east of Kabul, killing seven Afghans.
The dead included four civilians who were passing in a car when they were caught by the blast, a security guard at the compound, a student and another person who was on foot nearby, said Sediq Sediqqi, the Interior Ministry spokesman. Hospital officials said 18 other people had been hospitalized with injuries, including seven schoolchildren who were at a nearby school, and one person was in a critical condition.
The attack took place at the gate of a large compound called the Green Village, which houses private security guards, some foreign diplomats, United Nations employees and other foreign workers in the city, the spokesman said.
The attacker struck at about 6 a.m. local time on Wednesday morning and at least two loud consecutive explosions sounded across the city. Kabul was already on edge following a series of coordinated attacks by insurgents on April 15 when three groups of attackers breached the capitals security cordons and launched rocket attacks on areas including the Parliament and the embassy district.
Residents living near to the Green Village and people within the compound reported Wednesday hearing a number of blasts, mortar explosions, and ensuing gunfire.News reports said the attack involved a number of insurgents and was continuing more than three hours later. Residents also reported hearing heavy gunfire.
The the situation was confusing. Mr. Sediqqi said there had been a single attack, and that the consecutive blasts had been caused by a number of explosives placed in the same car. “We strongly believe there was one explosion,” he said. He said the gunfire could have been caused by security guards firing after the attack.
President Obama made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan on Tuesday, including a visit to Kabul, and met with President Hamid Karzai to sign a strategic partnership agreement.
But he had left the country before the explosions hit, the American Embassy said.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was a “message” to President Obama.
In a telephone interview, Zabiullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, said: “As soon as the mujahedeen learned about Obama’s trip to Kabul we planned to conduct an operation at the heart of the city to send a message to Obama that instead of signing strategic partnerships and instead of imposing a corrupt and unpopular government over the people of Afghanistan, he should think of ways to withdraw his troops from Afghanistan.”
He said a group of insurgents had led the attack on the compound.
A local resident in the east of the city reached by telephone phone said the compound is located near a school and that parents could be seen taking their children out of the building.
Some of the explosions were loud enough to be heard easily on the opposite side of the city.
By about 7:15 a.m. local time, the local resident said that flames and black smoke could be seen rising from the area but that the smaller explosions and gunfire had diminished.
The United Nations sent out warning to its employees, warning them to remain under cover but said all of its personnel had been accounted for.
A Western diplomatic official speaking by telephone from the Green Village said: “I am not sure what happened. We heard a big explosion about 6:15 a.m. We moved to the bunker. We heard a few shots. Since then there have been a couple of explosions.”
She said the Green Village was a varied community, mainly of foreigners, who were used to the security situation in Afghanistan. “They are being pretty sober about it,” she said.
Stephen Mackenzie, an American who works in Afghanistan and lives at the Green Village where he is also a security warden for the compound, said by e-mail that two large explosions had hit the area right outside the compound and some rocket-propelled grenades had struck nearby.
“Lots of small-arms fire,” he said.
He said there was heavy security surrounding the compound, mainly Afghan National Army officers.