KABUL: A suicide bomber blew up a car packed with explosives near a busy market and a mosque in eastern Afghanistan yesterday, killing at least 89 people in the deadliest insurgent attack on civilians since the 2001 US-led invasion.
The explosion destroyed dozens of mud-brick shops, flipped cars over and stripped trees of their branches.
General Mohammad Zahir Azimi, the Defence Ministry spokesman, said the bomber detonated his explosives as he drove by the crowded market in a remote town in Urgun district, in the Paktika province bordering Pakistan.
Azimi gave the death toll and said more than 40 other people were wounded. The military supplied helicopters and ambulances to take the victims to the hospital, he said, adding that the explosion destroyed more than 20 shops and dozens of vehicles.
Many of the victims were buried under the rubble, said Mohammad Reza Kharoti, administrative chief of Urgun district.
“It was a very brutal suicide attack against poor civilians,” he said. “There was no military base nearby.”
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast, and the Taliban issued a statement denying involvement, saying they “strongly condemn attacks on local people.”
The UN mission in Afghanistan said initial reports “suggest that the attacker prematurely detonated after police detected the explosives in his vehicle.”
Hours before the Paktika blast, a roadside bomb in Kabul ripped through a minivan carrying seven employees of the media office of the presidential palace, killing two of the passengers. The Taliban claimed responsibility.
Also, seven police officers, including a district counterterrorism director, and six border guards were killed when Taliban insurgents attacked a post on the border with Pakistan in the eastern Khost province, said Mubariz Mohammad Zadran, spokesman for the provincial governor.
Zadran said the attack set off an hours-long gun battle that left 34 insurgents and a local man dead.
“The majority of the insurgents killed in the clash are Pakistani citizens,” Zadran said.
Elsewhere in the country, two police officers were killed by a bomb concealed on a parked motorbike in the southern city of Kandahar, said Zia Durani, spokesman for the Kandahar police chief.