Afghan security scrutinized after suicide bomber kills 24

Men look at the remains of their properties at the site of a suicide attack Monday in Kabul, Afghanistan. A suicide car bomb killed dozens of people as well as the bomber in a western neighborhood of Afghanistan's capital where several prominent politicians reside, a government official said.
Massoud Hossaini ~ Associated Press

KABUL, Afghanistan -- A Taliban suicide bomber killed 24 people in a early morning assault in a neighborhood where prominent politicians reside, causing residents and analysts to question the government's ability to protect Afghanistan's capital.

Another 42 people were injured in the attack that took place during morning rush hour as government employees and students made their way to work and school.

Plumes of black smoke were seen billowing skyward outside the entrance to a private high school. Students in nearby dormitories were injured by flying glass.

Several cars were destroyed, small shops that lined the busy street were decimated, and many of the occupants within killed.

The suicide bomber had rammed his explosive-laden car into a minibus carrying employees of the mines and petroleum ministry, said Kabul police chief spokesman Basir Mujahed.

In a statement to the media the Taliban took responsibility for the bombing, saying the target was the employees of the intelligence services.

Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban spokesman, said insurgents had spent the last two months in Kabul shadowing intelligence services employees before striking early Monday.

Analysts said corruption, rife within the government and the security forces, makes keeping Kabul safe a difficult job.

"You can bring any amount of explosives into the city if you have money. Corruption is the big problem," Kabul-based security analyst Waheed Muzhda said in a telephone interview. "Any group, even a small group, can bring weapons, ammunition to anywhere in the city."

Last year, Afghanistan was ranked as one of the world's most corrupt countries, according to Transparency International.

The western Kabul neighborhood where the attack occurred is home to many prominent political leaders, such as Hazara leader Mohammad Mohaqiq.

It has also been the site of several previous attacks, including the suicide attack last month that killed Shiite Muslim cleric Ramazan Hussainzada, who also was a senior leader of the ethnic Hazara community.

Amir Helam, whose friend died in the explosion, told Afghanistan's Tolo TV "every day, people are dying."

Addressing the government, Helam said: "If you cannot bring peace then please leave and bring other people."

And to the insurgents, he said: "If you are the Taliban opposition please come and talk with the government. It is enough, stop killing the people."

Kabul has been battered by explosions claimed by the Taliban and by the Islamic State group's affiliate in Afghanistan.

On May 31, the Afghan capital saw its worst suicide attack since the Taliban's collapse in 2001 -- an attack that killed 150 people and wounded scores.

In a statement the Interior Ministry called Monday's attack "a criminal act against humanity."

Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish said police were working around the clock to keep the capital secure; however, he said intelligence to thwart attacks also required the public's cooperation. Residents have to help the security forces, he said.

A second security analyst, who also served as governor of Kunar and Herat, Sayed Fazlullah Wahidi said a growing mistrust of the government by many Afghans has helped insurgents.

"The police are corrupt, the security people are corrupt, and the people are against the government. All this together makes it easy for the Taliban," Wahidi said.

The Taliban said the attack was carried out by an insurgent identified only as Ahmad, and the target of the bombing was the intelligence services and their employees.

Taliban spokesman Mujahid claimed the bus was filled with employees of the intelligence services, saying 37 people were killed, but the Taliban often exaggerate their battlefield gains and death tolls.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani condemned the bombing.

"Once again, these terrorists are attacking civilians and targeting government staff," Ghani said in a statement.