At least 12 people were killed and more than 60 wounded when a car bomb exploded outside a hospital in central Kabul on Saturday afternoon, the latest in a wave of attacks to hit the Afghan capital in recent weeks.
The suicide bomber, who is thought to have targeted a foreign convoy, killed three American contractors. The vast majority of casualties, however, were Afghan civilians.
With more than 5,000 civilian casualties so far this year, 2015 may become the most violent year for Afghan civilians since the war began in 2001.
In a statement on Saturday night, said one of the Americans was killed in the blast, while the two others later died of their wounds. The contractors were not named.
According to Reuters, the contractors worked for DynCorp International, a private US security firm with a long involvement in the war.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, which took place at 4.20pm (1250 BST) in a busy street close to a market and residential housing complexes.
The bomb damaged a number of buildings, with the Shinozada private hospital worst hit. A religious school was also severely damaged, as was a school vehicle that was passing by. At least one woman and two children were among those killed in the attack, said Najib Danish of the interior ministry.
Kabir Amiri, a spokesman for Kabul’s hospitals, said 11 people, including a foreigner, had been killed and 66 wounded, but he did not include at least two of the Nato contractors.
In the aftermath, bystanders and locals were calm but visibly angered.
“The people who did this are not Muslims,” said the manager of a burger shop on the hospital premises.
“The hospital was open and full of patients,” he said, adding that the patients had now been transferred to different health facilities, along with his cook who had received serious cuts to the head.
Shams-ul Rahman, a prominent religious cleric, was on his way to a madrasa to teach a class of female Qur’an students when the bomb went off.
“Fortunately none of the students were hurt, but the madrasa is 100% destroyed,” he said.
“I’m not naming any group, but whoever did this, they thought they targeted the foreigners but they hit the core of religion, the madrasa. I don’t think any of the students will ever come here again.”
Saturday’s bomb is the latest in a wave of attacks unleashed on the Afghan capital since the announcement in late July of the .
His absence has plunged the insurgency into a power struggle. Experts also suggest it pushed the new leadership to assert its authority by ramping up violence.
Two weeks ago, in three separate attacks across the city, more than 50 people were killed and several hundred wounded in the worst civilian bloodshed in since the war began.
The upsurge in violence has soured Afghanistan’s relations with neighbouring Pakistan. The Afghan president, , has gambled much political capital on improving relations with Pakistan, whose sway over the Taliban he hopes can bring the Taliban to consider peace negotiations.
Before the announcement of Omar’s death, the insurgents seemed cautiously open to the idea.
Many Afghans, however, consider an arch-enemy for fomenting war and harbouring the Taliban. The recent violence has prompted Ghani to accuse Islamadad of sitting idly by while insurgents kill his people.
Last week, Ghani dispatched a high-level delegation to Islamabad in another attempt to repair ties and salvage the nascent peace process.