A suicide car bomber has killed 12 people, nine of them foreigners, officials said, in an early-morning attack claimed by an armed group which said it sent a female attacker to avenge an anti-Islam film.
A number of those killed on Tuesday were foreign workers for an international courier company, a senior police source said, and one was an Afghan translator.
“At around 6:45am [0215 GMT] a suicide bomber using a sedan blew himself up along the airport road in District 15. As a result, nine workers of a foreign company and three Afghan civilians are dead, and two police are wounded,” police said in a statement.
Kabul police chief Mohammad Ayoub Salangi said the bomber blew herself up alongside a minivan, carrying foreigners.
“This [attack] happened on a busy main road just on the edge of the centre of the city of Kabul near the city’s airport,” said Al Jazeera’s Bernard Smith, reporting from Kabul.
“We are told that the woman-driven explosive laden vehicle hit a small vehicle, perhaps a minibus, carrying foreign workers in that area.
“We understand that some of those foreigners [killed] are South Africans who work for a charter airline company,” he said.
A spokesman for NATO’s US-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) confirmed an explosion near the airport, but said there was no current report of casualties among its personnel.
Claims of responsibility
Armed group, Hizb-e-Islami, on Tuesday claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was carried out by a woman to avenge the controversial video deemed insulting to Islam.
The claim was made by spokesman Zubair Sidiqi in a telephone call to AFP news agency from an undisclosed location.
It is extremely rare for the faction to claim a suicide attack in Afghanistan, and even rarer for women to carry out suicide attacks.
Hizb-e-Islami is Afghanistan’s second-biggest armed group after the Taliban and is led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a former warlord.
The group, which has thousands of fighters and followers across the north and east of the country, is not aligned with the Taliban, but it is against what it calls the US occupation.
Its 65-year-old leader is a former Afghan prime minister and one-time US ally during the war against the Soviet occupation, but is now listed as a terrorist by Washington.
This radical Islamist group was reportedly funded by Pakistan’s ISI against the Soviets.
“We have also had the Taliban confirming to us that Hizb-e-Islami is responsible for this attack,” said Al Jazeera’s Smith.
“As far as we understand this is the first time that this group has used a suicide bomber. It is also extraordinarily unusual that the suicide bomber is woman,” he said.
Witnesses said there was smoke spewing into the sky and a heavy police deployment at the scene of the attack, contributing to a major traffic snarl-up on the busy road.
The attack came a day after protests turned violent for the first time in Afghanistan over the film Innocence of Muslims, as hundreds of angry men hurled stones at a US military base, clashed with police and shouted “Death to America”.
Tuesday’s attack also followed a devastating few days for NATO in which six of its soldiers were shot dead by suspected Afghan police, the Taliban destroyed six US fighter jets in an unprecedented assault on a major base in the south and one of its air strikes killed eight Afghan women.