KABUL, Afghanistan – A suicide attacker posing as a beggar wounded three soldiers from the NATO-led peacekeeping force and killed an Afghan girl Saturday on a street popular with Western souvenir shoppers.
Three NATO soldiers dressed in military uniforms were apparently on a shopping trip on Chicken Street around 3:40 p.m. local time when the bomber walked toward their vehicle and detonated at least three of six grenades in his possession, police and witnesses said.
One of the soldiers was seriously injured, but the wounds were not life-threatening, said Col. Patrick Poulain, spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force.
The Afghan girl was among three selling magazines on the street, and at least two shopkeepers were among the injured, witnesses said.
As the NATO troops passed a carpet shop, the attacker, who appeared to be disabled, detonated the grenades strapped to his waist, according to the witnesses.
Aimal Khan, a teenager whose family owns the carpet shop, was wounded in the arm and leg.
“There were two ISAF vehicles on the street when the explosions happened,” he said. “There were some magazine-selling girls, who were small and standing around the cars, and this stupid disabled man exploded himself.”
Chicken Street is frequented by Westerners, soldiers and aid workers, who come to browse for oriental carpets, antiques, gems and other souvenirs. The street takes its name from live chicken shops that once dominated trade there.
Khan’s older brother, Masoud, said he saw four or five wounded Afghans. Norwegian and British soldiers took up guard positions at the bombing scene after the attack.
On election day Oct. 9, Afghan soldiers, police and foreign troops carried out a massive security operation. But when security restrictions eased, attacks escalated again.
The suicide attack occurred as the ballot count in Afghanistan’s presidential election neared completion.
With 81 percent of ballots counted by Saturday night, interim President Hamid Karzai was leading with almost 55 percent of the vote. Karzai’s closest rival, his former education minister, Younis Qanooni, was trailing with 11 percent of the ballots.
A three-member United Nations panel is investigating complaints of election irregularities filed by all 18 candidates. Final results are not expected to be confirmed until next month.