Taliban suicide attack in Kabul kills TV station staff

At least seven dead and many wounded as explosion hits vehicle owned by production company affiliated with TOLO News.

Kabul, Afghanistan
The suicide car bomber targeted a minibus carrying journalists during evening rush hour close to the national parliament in Kabul [AFP]

A Taliban suicide car bomber has targeted a minibus carrying employees working for a private Afghan television channel, killing seven people during the evening rush hour.

The attack on Wednesday, close to the Russian embassy, was the latest in a series of suicide bombings in the Afghan capital that coincide with renewed efforts to revive a peace process with the Taliban fighters that broke down in July.

Since the start of 2016, Kabul has seen at least six bomb attacks.  [Al Jazeera]
Since the start of 2016, Kabul has seen at least six bomb attacks.  [Al Jazeera]

In a statement emailed to Al Jazeera, the Taliban said that it was responsible for the attack. 

“Kabul resident Faridullah conducted the attack,” the Taliban
statement said, adding: “The vehicle [a minibus that was
targeted] has been under our surveillance for a long time.” 

The car bomber targeted a vehicle owned by the Kaboora production company, which is affiliated to TOLO News, Afghanistan’s first 24-hour news channel.

Rajab Noorzayi told the Associated Press news agency that his daughter Zeinab worked for Kaboora and was on the bus.

“I’m looking for her but the police say everyone has been taken to hospital,” he said.

General Abdul Rahman Rahimi, the Kabul police chief, said the attackers were driving a car packed with explosives and targeted a minibus belonging to Kaboora.

TOLO News confirmed in a live news broadcast that the bus was Kaboora’s and that six of their staff had been killed. The identity of the seventh victim is unknown.  

At least 20 people were wounded in the bombing, including women and children, said Ismail Kawusi, a Ministry of Public Health spokesman.

Abdullah Abdullah, the Afghan government chief executive, condemned the attack and said he had drawn up plans for more security.

“I have also advised security forces to provide security for media outlets and journalists.”

A witness earlier told Al Jazeera that the suicide bomber rammed his motorbike into the vehicle before detonating himself. But authorities later said the suicide attacker was in a car.

The bus was taking employees home from the company’s office in central Kabul when the attack took place, at around 5pm local time.

Taliban threats

Powers aim to draw Taliban into Afghan peace talks

Last year, the Taliban openly threatened to target the television channel after it reported allegations of summary executions, rape, kidnappings and other abuses by Taliban fighters during the battle for Kunduz.

The Taliban said at the time that the reports were inaccurate and threatened unspecified consequences.

No one from Tolo TV was immediately available for comment.

The latest attack adds a dangerous new complication for local journalists working in a country that is already ranked as low as 122 out of 180 in the World Press Freedom Index, a gauge of media freedom compiled by the group Reporters Without Borders.

Series of attacks 

Since the start of 2016, Kabul has seen at least six bomb attacks.

On Sunday, a rocket landed near the Italian embassy in Kabul, wounding two security guards.

Representatives of Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the United States met in Kabul this week to lay the groundwork for a negotiated end to 15 years of war, and urged the armed group Taliban to join peace talks.

Separately on Wednesday, the US government issued a warning that it had received reports of armed groups planning to attack a hotel or guesthouse frequented by foreigners in Kabul.

There was no further information regarding the timing, location or method of attack, the statement said.

انفجار در فاصلهء چند متري امسرك دارالامانروبروي وزارت تجارت

Posted by Haji Hamdullah Hamidi on Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies