KABUL — A bomb that might have been aimed at government workers and soldiers instead ripped through a minibus full of commuters on the outskirts of Kabul on Tuesday, killing at least nine and providing another stark reminder that, even as coalition militaries hand over security control to Afghans, militants are still able to operate within striking distance of the capital.
The attack occurred in the Paghman district of Kabul province, about 10 miles west of downtown Kabul when a bomb placed under a small bridge exploded around 5:30 a.m. The blast ripped apart a minibus carrying villagers on their way into the city, according to local officials.
It comes at a time of great uncertainty in the ranks of the Afghan security forces, after Parliament on Saturday voted to oust the country’s two top security officials, including Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak, who resigned Tuesday.
Paghman district Gov. Haji Abdul Qadir said the intended target appears to have been an almost identical bus carrying Ministry of Defense workers and soldiers that was traveling behind the commuter van. He said nine were killed and three injured.
Shortly after the explosion, soldiers aboard the Defense Ministry bus and some locals caught the alleged bomber, the grandson of a radical mullah. A contingent of National Police officers arrested him, Qadir said, adding that the man was carrying a detonator. The villagers began to beat the man.
“When the families arrived, they wanted to kill this guy on [the] spot with sticks and stones, but ANP arrived and saved the guy,” he said.
Shortly after the bombing, President Hamid Karzai released a statement condemning the attack.
The people who place mines during Ramadan on roads used by civilians, targeting civilians and killing them, “will not earn anything but the hatred of Afghans and punishment from God,” the statement said.
A tribal leader in the district said 18 were killed and 13 injured in the attack. Speaking at a local graveyard where relatives were preparing for funerals, the leader, Mohammad Zia, said the man arrested in connection with the bombing had spent time in prison for ties to the Taliban but was released after someone in the community made guarantees he would reform.
“This is an inhuman act,” Zia said. “Whoever did it, we want the guy to be hanged in the same district to be a lesson to others.”
A statement from Brig. Gen. Günter Katz, spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force said, “The placement of this IED was clearly intended to indiscriminately murder innocent civilians during the holy month of Ramazan. This act clearly demonstrates the insurgents’ lack of concern for the people of Afghanistan and their desire for peace and security for themselves, their families, and their nation.”
On Monday, Karzai accepted a vote of no confidence from Parliament and vowed to replace both Wardak, who oversaw the Afghan National Army for eight years, and Interior Minister Bismillah Mohammadi, head of the Afghan National Police. The shakeup and the bombing come at a time when coalition forces are hurriedly trying to transfer security responsibilities to Afghan forces as international militaries continue to withdraw from the country ahead of the 2014 deadline for all combat troops to leave.
Zubair Babakarkhail contributed to this report.