KABUL, Afghanistan – A suicide bomber blew himself up in a busy pedestrian alley next to Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry on Saturday, killing at least 12 people and wounding dozens, officials said.
It was the second major suicide attack in Kabul this month, underscoring the rising danger in the once-calm capital as militants step up attacks across the country.
The explosion occurred just before 8 a.m. near a narrow dirt road where employees and civilians pass through a security gate. Shops, street photographers and men who fill out Interior Ministry paperwork for illiterate Afghans make the area a busy cross-section of commerce and government.
Rahman Shah was standing in line at a security checkpoint with his wife and three children when he heard someone shout “suicide attack.” He turned to see a police officer chasing a man, and moments later a blinding explosion threw him and his family to the ground.
“I fell to one side of the road with my son, and when I ran to the other side where my wife, daughter and my other son were, I found them all injured and bloody,” Shah said at the hospital where his wife and 4-year-old daughter were recovering.
Interior Ministry spokesman Zemeri Bashary said 42 people were wounded, while Dr. Salam Jalali of the Public Health Ministry put the figure at 54. Two women and a child were among the dead.
President Hamid Karzai condemned the blast and said that “suicide attackers come from outside Afghanistan and target the most devoted and the poorest Muslim people of the world.”
“I condemn it in the strongest terms and call on the international community to work with Afghanistan in stopping sanctuaries that raise, train and brainwash young people to become suicide attackers,” Karzai said in a statement.
Karzai also said that he and the Pakistani president will jointly lead a series of tribal gatherings along their countries’ shared border to quell attacks on Afghanistan by Pakistan-based Taliban rebels.
The number of attacks in the border region has tripled following a peace agreement between the Pakistani government and pro-Taliban tribesmen in its territory, U.S. officials said.
Militants have also been stepping up roadside and suicide bombings across Afghanistan over the last several months. Earlier this month a suicide car bomber rammed a U.S. military convoy in Kabul, killing 16 people, including two American soldiers. A suicide bomber killed 18 people outside the Helmand provincial governor’s compound in the town of Lashkar Gah on Tuesday.