Suicide blasts rock Kabul

2010-02-26 07:47

Kabul - A suicide bomber killed at least 10 people near an upmarket shopping and hotel complex in the heart of Kabul on Friday, and police shot dead two other would-be attackers, officials said.

Witnesses reported at least two smaller blasts around the Safi Landmark complex as police cordoned off the area, ambulances rushed to the scene and sporadic gunfire was heard.

People in pyjamas were seen being led from a guesthouse in the area and taken away in ambulances.

A military official said that 10 people were killed and 11 others wounded.

The explosion struck around 06:30 (02:00 GMT), a day after the Afghan flag was raised over a southern town at the centre of a US-led offensive designed to evict Taliban militants and reinstate Afghan government control.

Smaller blasts

Witnesses said it was followed by two or three smaller blasts as grey smoke billowed over the area.

The heavily fortified centre of Kabul has been relatively calm since January 18, when Taliban gunmen stormed the city's commercial heart, taking over buildings, detonating suicide vests and killing at least five people.

Fridays, the Muslim holiday, are the quietest day of the week in Kabul but the city's diplomatic "green zone" was immediately sealed off to traffic and loudspeaker announcements in Dari and English told residents to stay indoors.

"In our hospital we have seven bodies," said General Ahmadzia Yaftali, head of the Afghan army medical operations.

Another three bodies had been taken to a nearby hospital run by the Afghan government's intelligence agency, he said.

"A suicide bomber detonated himself in front of a kebab shop near the Safi Landmark," interior ministry spokesperson Zemarai Bashary said.

"Two other suicide bombers were shot dead by police in the same area," he said, while playing down witness reports that other gunmen had entered the Safi Landmark buildings.

Shattered glass carpeted the road outside the Park Residence Hotel, a guesthouse frequented by foreigners in the centre of the city. An AFP reporter on the scene said there appeared to be a large crater in the road outside.

Police commandos were seen using ladders to scale the glass outside wall of the guesthouse.