KABUL, Afghanistan – A Taliban suicide bomber blew himself up Friday inside a supermarket popular with Westerners, killing eight people – some of them foreigners – in an attack that showed insurgents can still strike forcibly in the capital despite tightened security.
The Taliban said their target was an official with the U.S. security contractor formerly known as Blackwater whom they followed into the store. Although the insurgent group regularly attacks those allied with NATO forces or the Afghan government, it was not clear why they specifically targeted the company, now known as Xe Services.
It was the third deadly attack in Kabul in less than two months and the worst on a civilian target in the city since February 2010, when suicide attackers charged two residential hotels, killing 20 people.
Afghan officials have said that the relatively low level of violence in Kabul in the last half of 2010 could be credited to stepped-up raids on insurgent cells and the highly publicized “ring-of-steel” of checkpoints surrounding the capital.
The Finest supermarket – which sells such American staples as cornflakes, peanut butter and pasta sauce but also delicacies like brie, caviar and chocolate – was packed with foreigners and upper-class Afghans shopping on their day off when shots rang out about 2:30 p.m., sending customers scurrying for cover.
The assailant threw at least one grenade into the aisles and then detonated his explosives, said Ahmad Zaki, a criminal investigator with the Interior Ministry.
The dead included two Afghan women, a male Afghan child and at least two or three foreigners, said Deputy Kabul Police Chief Daud Amin. He said the other two victims had not been identified.
Fifteen other people were wounded, including a Briton, a Canadian and three Filipinos, he said.