Taliban strike Kabul’s heart

uicide bombers attacked in the heart of Kabul on Friday, triggering a series of explosions and gunbattles that killed at least 17 people in an area that’s home to small residential hotels used by foreigners, police and witnesses said.

An unidentified man escapes from a window of a building attacked in Kabul

An unidentified man escapes from a window of a building attacked in Kabul

KABUL, Afghanistan — Suicide bombers attacked in the heart of Kabul on Friday, triggering a series of explosions and gunbattles that killed at least 17 people in an area that’s home to small residential hotels used by foreigners, police and witnesses said.

The Taliban claimed responsibility, saying five suicide bombers conducted the early morning attacks on two buildings used by foreign citizens, while police said the attackers numbered at least three. Police said Indians were among those killed.

Dr. Surbod Sanjiv Paul of India stayed holed up in his bathroom for three hours inside one of the guest houses when it came under attack.

“When I was coming out, I found two or three dead bodies,” Paul said later at a military hospital, where his wounded foot was bandaged. “When firing was going on, the first car bomb exploded and the full roof came on my head.”

The attacks in Kabul came as thousands of U.S., Afghan and NATO soldiers were in their second week of a major offensive against a Taliban stronghold in the town of Marjah in Helmand province. In recent weeks, more than two dozen senior and midlevel Taliban figures have been detained in Pakistan in recent weeks, suggesting that the attack in the capital could be a way for the militants to show that the insurgency remains potent.

At least 17 people were killed in Friday’s attack and 32 wounded, said Abdul Ghafar Sayedzada, head of criminal investigation for the Kabul police. He said three of the dead were police officers and most of the civilians who were killed were Indians.

The targets were two residential hotels. A car bomb flattened the Hamid Guesthouse and assailants also attacked the nearby Park Residence, Sayedzada said. An Associated Press reporter saw police carry seven bodies from the Park Residence.

“I saw foreigners were crying and shouting,” said Najibullah, a 25-year-old hotel worker who ran out into the rain-slickened street in just his underwear when he heard the first explosion.

Najibullah, whose face and hands were covered in blood, said he saw two suicide bombers at the site. “It was a very bad situation inside,” he said. “God helped me, otherwise I would be dead. I saw one suicide bomber blowing himself up.

The explosions woke up residents near the Kabul City Center, a nine-story shopping area that includes the four-star Safi Landmark Hotel. Witnesses said one explosion created a crater about 3 feet (1 metre) wide and that windows of the nearby Safi hotel were blown out.

More than two hours after the first explosion, gunfire continued to ring out around one of the guest houses. Police with gas masks were attempting to smoke out a suspected attacker holed up in the basement of the building, according to a police officer at the scene who only gave his first name, Abdulrahman.

The Canadian Embassy issued a statement saying the violence would not undermine international commitment.

“Attacks, such as today’s bombing, will not deter Canada or its international partners from its commitment to support Afghans in their efforts to create a stable, democratic and self-sufficient society,” the embassy said in a strong condemnation of the attack.

A large plume of black smoke rose from the area. Shattered glass littered the streets, which were mostly emptied because it was the first day of the Afghan weekend. Afghan police, armed with Kalashnikov rifles, crouched behind traffic barriers with guns ready as a light rain fell and shots sounded from multiple sides.

Police escorted a middle-aged woman in pink pyjamas out of the area. She wore a brown sweater, but no shoes and her socks sopped up water as she walked as if in a daze down the street. “I haven’t seen. … Where are my …?” she said, speaking only in sentence fragments.

Jack Barton, an Australian aid worker, said he was awakened by a large blast that blew in the windows of the guest house where he was staying and filled the room with dust.

“There was very intense street fighting outside the guesthouse compound. It happened very close by. After an hour, it slowly drifted away,” he said.

It was the first attack in the Afghan capital since Jan. 18, when teams of suicide bombers and gunmen targeted government buildings, leaving 12 dead, including seven attackers. On Dec. 15, a suicide car bomber hit near a hotel frequented by foreigners, killing eight people.

In Oct. 28, gunmen with suicide vests stormed a small residential hotel, leaving 11 dead, including five U.N. staff and three attackers. Earlier that month, on Oct. 8, a suicide car bomber detonated his vehicle outside the Indian Embassy, killing 17 people.

India is among the largest economic donors to Afghanistan apart from countries that have sent troops to the NATO-led mission. India is seeking regional allies and access to oil- and gas-rich central Asia.

But India’s growing role here is strongly opposed by Pakistan, which wants a friendly government here without ties to its archrival, and by the Taliban because of Indian links to rival ethnic communities here. Many of the Islamic extremist groups in the region have been fighting the Indians for years in Indian-controlled parts of Kashmir.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A vial of the Medicago vaccine sits on a surface. CARe Clinic, located in Red Deer, has been selected to participate in the third phase of vaccine study. (Photo courtesy www.medicago.com)
Red Deer clinical research centre participating in plant-based COVID-19 vaccine trial

A Red Deer research centre has been selected to participate in the… Continue reading

Asymptomatic testing will now be available for "priority groups" who are most likely to spread the COVID-19 virus to vulnerable or at-risk populations. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS
Red Deer jumps to 449 active COVID-19 cases on Sunday

1,516 new cases identified in Alberta

The QEII was closed Sunday morning due to a pole fire. (Photo courtesy City of Red Deer)
UPDATE: QEII near Red Deer reopens

The QEII has been reopened after being closed due to a pole… Continue reading

Innisfail RCMP are investigating a single-vehicle crash that happened west of Bowden on March 21, 2021. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Bashaw RCMP investigate fatal collision in central Alberta

Bashaw RCMP are investigating after a fatal collision Saturday afternoon. Police were… Continue reading

A damaged unicorn statue is shown in a field outside of Delia, Alta. in this undated handout photo. It's not often police can report that a unicorn has been found, but it was the truth Saturday when RCMP said a stolen, stainless-steel statue of the mythical beast had been located in a field not far from where he'd been taken. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Mounties get their unicorn; stolen statue of mythical beast found in Alberta field

DELIA, Alta. — It’s not often police can report that a unicorn… Continue reading

Investigators from the Vancouver Police Department were in Chilliwack Saturday, collecting evidence connected to a double homicide. (file photo)
Police investigate shooting death of man outside downtown Vancouver restaurant

Vancouver police say one man was killed in what they believe was… Continue reading

Dr. E. Kwok administers a COVID-19 vaccine to a recipient at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to start registering people 18 years and older for COVID-19 vaccines

VICTORIA — The British Columbia government says it’s inviting people 18 years… Continue reading

San Jose's Tomas Hertl, center, celebrates with teammates Patrick Marleau, left, and Rudolfs Blacers, right, after Hertl scored a goal during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Minnesota Wild, Friday, April 16, 2021, in St. Paul, Minn. (AP Photo/Stacy Bengs)
Patrick Marleau set to break Gordie Howe’s games record

For Patrick Marleau, the best part about Monday night when he is… Continue reading

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a press briefing at the White House, Tuesday, April 13, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Half of U.S. adults have received at least one COVID-19 shot

WASHINGTON — Half of all adults in the U.S. have received at… Continue reading

People are shown at a COVID-19 vaccination site in Montreal, Sunday, April 18, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Federal government to send health-care workers to Ontario, Trudeau says

MONTREAL — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says federal departments and some Canadian… Continue reading

People cross a busy street in the shopping district of Flushing on Tuesday, March 30, 2021, in the Queens borough of New York. Access to the COVID-19 vaccine in the United States is growing by the day. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kathy Willens
Despite COVID-19 vaccines, Americans in D.C. not feeling celebratory — or charitable

WASHINGTON — This might make Canadians jealous of their American cousins for… Continue reading

A man pays his respects at a roadside memorial in Portapique, N.S. on Thursday, April 23, 2021. RCMP say at least 22 people are dead after a man who at one point wore a police uniform and drove a mock-up cruiser, went on a murder rampage in Portapique and several other Nova Scotia communities. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Memorial service in Nova Scotia marks one year since mass shooting started

TRURO, N.S. — A memorial service is planned for today in central… Continue reading

In this April 23, 2016, photo, David Goethel sorts cod and haddock while fishing off the coast of New Hampshire. To Goethel, cod represents his identity, his ticket to middle class life, and his link to one the country's most historic industries, a fisherman who has caught New England's most recognized fish for more than 30 years. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
‘It’s more than just a fish:’ Scientists worry cod will never come back in N.L.

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — The latest assessment of Atlantic cod stocks, whose… Continue reading

Most Read