Between stalled peace bid and growing attacks

January 19, 2019 08:30 pm | Updated 08:46 pm IST

A nurse assisting a wounded man in a hospital in Kabul following the blast last week.

A nurse assisting a wounded man in a hospital in Kabul following the blast last week.

A massive truck bomb explosion in Kabul on Monday claimed four lives, including those of an Indian and an American national, and injured at least 113 others, including 23 children. Claimed by the Taliban, this is one of the first major attacks in the new year in Afghanistan, after a brief period of quiet that followed the ongoing talks between various international stakeholders and the insurgent group.

The attack that took place in the late evening hours targeted an area that houses offices and guest houses for international organisations. However, despite high levels of security, the magnitude of the bomb — hidden in a sewage truck — caused tremendous damage and the blast was felt across the city, as far as 10 km away. “I was praying around 7 p.m. when the explosion went off and my family carried me to the NDS hospital,” Hamid Hassanzai, a local resident who lives close to the site of the attack, told this correspondent. Mr. Hassanzai was knocked unconscious, while his wife and son were wounded in the attack.

This is the second such attack in recent months targeting the heavily-fortified area of Kabul known as ‘Green Village’. An attack on a British security firm, G4S, located in the same area, in November last year resulted in the death of at least 10 Afghans. “This has become a very dangerous place because VIPs and foreigners live here,” Mr. Hassanzai said, adding that the locals staying close to the Green Village were extremely concerned for their safety as threats to the compound increased.

Mr. Hassanzai and other residents of the area urged the government to relocate the foreigner compounds away from civilian settlements.

“They should take this to another place. There are schools here and we are poor people. The enemies will always target this place and they never want peace,” he added, frustrated at the volatile security situation.

Shipra Sharma, the Indian national killed in the attack, was also living close to the Green Village compound on the Kabul-Jalalabad Highway. Sharma hailed from Jodhpur and worked with the Afghanistan Institute for Civil Society.

“India strongly condemns the horrific terror attack in Kabul in which an Indian national and many others lost their lives,” a statement from the Ministry of External Affairs read. “India calls for the perpetrators of this heinous attack and those who provide them shelter to be brought to justice expeditiously.”

Another foreign national, identified by the American media as Mano Kamaleson, has been reported to have been killed in the attack. Kamaleson worked with the First MicroFinance Bank in Kabul. Some German policemen were also “slightly injured” in the blast, a German official confirmed.

India weighs in on the peace talks as the country’s interests in Afghanistan have come under increased attacks. Several Indians, including engineers working in the northern provinces, were kidnapped last year. The Embassy recently advised caution to Indian citizens in Afghanistan after a threat was issued.

Talks stalled

This attack took place as the Taliban withdrew from the negotiations with the U.S., and a day before U.S. special representative Zalmay Khalilzad arrived in Kabul to meet Afghan government leaders. “The Islamic Emirate will be forced to stall all talks and negotiations until America ends her unlawful pressures and manoeuvring and steps forward towards true peace,” a statement from the Taliban spokesperson read. The statement also warned that the insurgents planned to conduct similar “military activities”.

Ruchi Kumar is a freelance journalist based in Kabul

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