Kabul blast: Death toll rises to 90, 11 US citizens injured

Nearly a dozen United States citizens were among the 400 people wounded when a massive explosion rocked a highly secure diplomatic area in Kabul on Wednesday, killing at least 90 people. There were 11 U.S. citizens — all contract personnel — injured in the blast and one Afghan local guard was reported missing, a senior U.S. official told Fox News. Nine Afghan guards working for a U.S.-contracted security company were killed. No group has claimed responsibility for the blast, believed to be caused by a suicide bombing, though both the Taliban and the Islamic State group have staged large-scale attacks in the Afghan capital in the past. The Taliban later Wednesday issued a statement denying any involvement and condemning all attacks against civilians. Zabihullah Mujahid, spokesman for the Taliban, said the Kabul explosion had “nothing to do with the Mujahedeen of Islamic Emirate,” as the Taliban call themselves. The target of the explosion in the Wazir Akbar Khan area was not immediately known, but Ismail Kawasi, spokesman of the public health ministry, said most of the casualties were civilians, including women and children. It was one of the worst attacks Kabul had seen since the drawdown of foreign forces from the country at the end of 2014. The bombing also raised serious questions about the Afghan government’s ability to secure the war-battered nation. “We don’t know at this moment what was the target of the attack, but most of the casualties are civilians,” said Najib Danish, deputy spokesman for the Interior Ministry. Germany’s Foreign Minister Signmar Gabriel said employees of the German Embassy in Kabul were wounded and an Afghan security guard was killed. The Foreign Ministry activated a crisis team to help deal with the aftermath. Windows were shattered in shops, restaurants and other buildings up to a half mile from the blast site. “There are a large number of casualties, but I don’t know, how many people are killed or wounded,” said an eyewitness at the site, Gul Rahim. The blast comes a day after a massive bomb outside a popular ice cream parlor in central Baghdad and a rush hour car bomb in another downtown area killed at least 31 people in Iraqi. The neighborhood is considered Kabul’s safest area, with foreign embassies protected by dozens of 10-foot-high blast walls and government offices, guarded by police and national security forces. The German Embassy, the Foreign Ministry and the Presidential Palace are all in the area, as are the British and the Canadian embassies. The Chinese, Turkish and Iranian embassies are also located there. The U.S Embassy and the NATO mission in Kabul are also near, about a kilometer (half mile) away from the site. Both condemned the attack and the alliance praised “the courage of Afghan Security Forces, especially the police and first responders.”

Another KaBOOM day in Kabul..   I remember them well…

US Embassy says American targeted in attempted kidnapping in Kabul

An American was targeted in an attempted kidnapping in the Afghan capital of Kabul this week, according to the U.S. embassy there. The American and several expatriates were targeted Monday, the embassy said in a statement, reminding Americans who plan to travel to Kabul that the threat of kidnapping or hostage taking is still “very high.” Officials didn’t announce any other information about the attempted kidnapping, but Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry Spokesman Sediq Sediqqi told NBC News that an incident took place in a residential neighborhood of Kabul. Sediqqi, citing surveillance video and police reports, said foreigners were traveling in an SUV when their car was cut off and blocked in by another vehicle. He added that two men emerged from the second vehicle, but the SUV carrying the foreigners was able to reverse onto a main road with a police checkpoint. The men reportedly then ran back to their vehicle and sped off. Sediqqi said the nationalities of the foreigners could not be revealed due to an ongoing investigation. The U.S. Embassy said it encourages anyone who plans on traveling to Kabul or any other parts of Afghanistan to stay vigilant and be aware of your surroundings. “The U.S. Embassy continues to take this threat seriously and advises U.S. citizens to take appropriate security precautions and to avoid predictable travel patterns within Afghanistan,” the statement added.

At least 28 dead, 327 injured in Taliban attack on Kabul

Armed militants in Afghanistan stormed a key government security agency in the capital Tuesday morning as part of a coordinated assault, killing at least 28 people and wounding more than 320. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which included a suicide car bombing. It appeared to have targeted an agency similar to the U.S. Secret Service, providing personal protection for high-ranking government officials. Sediq Sediqqi, spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said during a press conference that two militants were involved in the attack. One drove the small truck rigged with hundreds of pounds of explosives. The second entered the compound in the aftermath of the explosion and opened fire before he was eventually killed. Sediqqi said the car bomb caused massive damage to buildings and vehicles in the area and added that the death toll could rise. “With no doubt there was a security vacuum and that needs to be investigated, it is too early to comment on that right now,” he said. The U.S. Embassy denounced the attack, calling it a senseless act of violence. It added that it supports the Afghan government’s peace process to end such violence. “Today’s attack shows the insurgents are unable to meet Afghan forces on the battlefield and must resort to these terrorist attacks,” added Gen. John W. Nicholson, commander of international forces in Afghanistan. “We strongly condemn the actions of Afghanistan’s enemies and remain firmly committed to supporting our Afghan partners and the National Unity Government.” Ismail Kawasi, spokesman for the Public Health Ministry, said so far 327 are wounded, including women and children, have been brought to area hospitals. An Interior Ministry statement said that dozens of civilians were killed and wounded in the attack. The casualty figures are expected to rise. “This was one of the most powerful explosions I have ever heard in my life,” said Obaidullah Tarakhail, a police commander who was present when the attack began. Tarakhail said he couldn’t see or hear anything for 20 minutes after the initial explosion. “All around was dark and covered with thick smoke and dust,” he said. Dozens of civilian apartment buildings, houses, shops and several government buildings were damaged by the car bomb blast. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack. Taliban insurgents have stepped up their attacks recently since announcing the start of their spring offensive last week. President Ashraf Ghani issued a statement condemning the attack and saying it, “clearly shows the enemy’s defeat in face-to-face battle with Afghan security forces.” In separate statement the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) condemned the attack in Kabul. “This attack shows the devastation caused by the use of explosive devices in urban areas and once more demonstrates complete disregard for the lives of Afghan civilians,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the Secretary-General’s Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan. “The use of high explosives in civilian populated areas, in circumstances almost certain to cause immense suffering to civilians, may amount to war crimes.” The attack comes four days after another attack by Taliban insurgents in northern Kunduz province which was repelled by the Afghan security forces. Officials in Kunduz said that security has improved in the city and that the Taliban were defeated in other parts of the province, but operations were still underway to clear militant fighters from the rest of the province. The Taliban held Kunduz for three days last year before being driven out by a two-week counteroffensive aided by U.S.-airstrikes. It was their biggest foray into an urban area since 2001.

Another KaBOOOM day in Kabul.  As we’ve been saying for months here at The Daily Buzz…  We need to step up our military assistance to the Afghan government and seriously go on the offense against these Taliban vermin.  Awful..

Gunfire erupts in Kabul following explosion near embassies, officials say

Gunfire erupted in Kabul Friday after a large explosion in a heavily protected area close to foreign embassies and government buildings. Initial police reports suggested three attackers targeted a guest house attached to the Spanish embassy, according to Reuters. Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said the explosion appeared to have come from a car bomb. There were no immediate details of damage or casualties, Reuters reports. Security officials cordoned off the surrounding streets as ambulances rushed to the scene, according to The Telegraph. Police said gunfire had broken out following the blast, which came after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani returned to Kabul from a regional peace conference in Islamabad aimed at reviving peace talks with Taliban militants. Days earlier, the Taliban attacked Kandahar Air Field, killing 50 people, mainly civilians.

Another KaBOOOM day in Kabul…

US Embassy in Afghanistan warns of Kabul attack within 48 hours

The U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan issued an emergency message for U.S. citizens in the country’s capital Monday, saying it had received “credible reports of an imminent attack” within the next 48 hours. The statement said that there were no details available regarding the attack’s time, target or method. However, it urged Americans in Kabul to “exercise extreme caution if moving around the city.” Earlier this month, the State Department issued an updated travel warning for Afghanistan in the wake of the terror attacks in Paris. That warning advised Americans not to travel to Afghanistan, citing the “extremely unstable” security situation. Taliban militants have stepped up attacks on Afghan government facilities in recent months. On Saturday, a suicide bomber targeted a member of the country’s election commission in Kabul, killing the official’s bodyguard and wounding his driver. In September, Taliban fighters briefly overran Afghan forces to take control of the northern city of Kunduz. Bombings, especially roadside bombs, have also been a major threat to both Afghan security forces and civilians across the country.

Having personally spent some time in Kabul, and the U.S. embassy in Kabul, this is of particular interest to me.  We’ll, of course, keep an eye on this story as it develops..

Afghan men don burqas, take to the streets for women’s rights

A group of Afghan men marched through the capital, Kabul, on Thursday to draw attention to women’s rights by donning head-to-toe burqas that for many people worldwide have come to symbolize the suppression of women. The hardline Taliban forced women to wear burqas in public during their rule in the 1990s and concern is growing in Afghanistan and among its allies that gains for women made since the 2001 U.S.-led ouster of the Taliban are at risk. The men marched under a leaden sky, with the bright blue burqas falling over their heads down to muddy sneakers and boots. The demonstrators, associated with a group called Afghan Peace Volunteers, said they organized the march ahead of International Women’s Day on March 8. “Our authorities will be celebrating International Women’s Day in big hotels, but we wanted to take it to the streets,” said activist Basir, 29, who uses one name. “One of the best ways to understand how women feel is to walk around and wear a burqa.” The burqa covers the entire body, with a mesh fabric window to see through. Though a symbol of Taliban treatment of women, it remains common in many parts of Afghanistan. The march by about 20 men drew a mixed reaction.

I have a burqa I bought while in Afghanistan a few years ago..  Anyway, this is a very interesting development…and something we should definitely keep an eye on.  It’s also a very good reason for us maintaining a substantial military force in Afghanistan to keep Taliban, ISIS/ISIL, and other Islamo-fascist groups at bay.  This display by these Afghan men in burqas shows that the good people of Afghanistan are yearning for more freedoms.  That yearning will undermine the agenda of Islamic fringe groups…and we should support those efforts.  They’ll be more willing to do this if they know we have their backs.  So, it is in our national security interest to maintain a formidable military presence in Afghanistan indefinitely.

Gunman kills 3 American contractors in Afghanistan

Three American contractors and an Afghan national were shot to death in the North Kabul International Airport Thursday, a U.S. official confirmed. It was not immediately clear who did the shooting or whether the shooter was a member of the Afghan security forces.

Having flown in and out of Kabul International, I can tell you it would be an easy target..  Awful..  This story is developing..

Quality junk food in Kabul? Harder to find now at the legendary Bush Bazaar

Just off one of Kabul’s main thoroughfares and a short walk down a muddy alley sits a tiny, open-air market known as the “Bush Bazaar.” At the height of the US presence in Afghanistan, the Bush Bazaar, named for becoming the go-to shopping destination for Afghans and expatriates looking to buy authentic American goods, from military boots and clothing to Cheez-It crackers. Now also dubbed the “Obama Market,” the place stands as a footprint left by US and coalition military forces in Afghanistan, but one now quickly fading as international troops exit the country – and as cheap Chinese knockoffs flood the market.

This is just a walk down memory lane for yours truly..  I know this bazaar well, and loved stopping at the many bazaars in Kabul during my time in Afghanistan back in 2008.

Taliban ambush kills 14 Afghan troops as violent clashes continue

A mountain ambush by Taliban fighters killed at least 14 Afghan security force troops, authorities said Monday, as villagers elsewhere in the country alleged a NATO airstrike that the coalition said targeted militants actually killed civilians.

Another KaBOOOM day near Kabul, Afghanistan. We’ll see a LOT more of this in the coming months, since our brain trust of a President arbitrarily has set the end of the year to just pull combat troops out of Afghanistan. As usual, he isn’t interested in mission success; just withdrawing troops…regardless of the consequences of doing that prematurely. If we’re not VERY careful, Afghanistan will become another Iraq. Stay tuned…