Kabul : A suicide bomber detonated an explosives-laden vehicle Saturday near the NATO military headquarters in Kabul, killing three civilians and wounding about 85 others, just five days before the Aug 20 Afghan presidential election, officials said.
The Taliban took responsibility for the attack, said Zabiullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the militants.
The blast occurred near the gate of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in a neighbourhood where the presidential palace and the US embassy are also located.
“The attack was carried out by a Toyota Corolla in front of ISAF headquarters, and as a result, three civilians were martyred and 85 others were wounded,” the interior ministry said in a statement.
At least eight vehicles were destroyed in the attack while windows in houses as far as a half-kilometre away were blown out.
“It was carried out by one of our hero mujahid, Ahmad, and the target was the US embassy and NATO headquarters,” Mujahid told DPA by phone from an undisclosed location.
He claimed 25 foreigners, including NATO soldiers and US embassy workers, were killed in the attack. Taliban casualty claims, however, are often exaggerated.
Mujahid said the attack was carried out by a Toyota vehicle packed with 500 kg of explosives.
The blast occurred just before Afghanistan conducts the second direct presidential election in its history Thursday and amid security concerns for the voting during an escalating insurgency by Taliban militants.
A large cloud of smoke rose above Kabul after Saturday’s explosion, which occurred in an area that is difficult to enter because of tight security.
General Zahir Azimi at the defence ministry said the three bodies and 24 wounded people were evacuated to the main army hospital in Kabul while the rest of the casualties were taken to other medical facilities.
Although the Taliban had fired several rockets into Kabul in the past weeks, the city has been relatively calm in the past six months.
The last major attack happened in February when a group of eight Taliban militants attacked several government buildings in the city. Nearly 30 people, including the attackers, were killed in the assaults.
Security in Kabul has been tightened as hundreds of extra Afghan police and army soldiers were deployed onto its streets in the past weeks.
The security forces have increased their patrols in the city while new checkpoints have been erected to increase security precautions for the presidential election.