A massive suicide car bomb explosion devastated a highly secure diplomatic area in the Afghan capital of Kabul only days into the holy month of Ramadan, killing about 90 and injuring up to an estimated 463 others, including 11 Americans.
Women and children are among the casualties.
“The terrorists, even in the holy month of Ramadan, the month of goodness, blessing, and prayer, are not stopping the killing of our innocent people,” said a statement from the office of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
Ghani’s office denounced the “cowardly attack in the holy Month of Ramadan targeting innocent civilians in their daily life.”
Meanwhile, Hugo Llorens, the special charge d’affaires at the Kabul-based U.S. Embassy said:
Carried out in a busy street during the morning rush hour, and during the holy month of Ramadan, this horrific and shameful attack demonstrates these terrorists’ complete disregard for human life and their nihilistic opposition to the dream of a peaceful future for Afghanistan. The terrorists, and those who provide them support in any form, deserve the utter scorn of all civilized people around the world.
The deadly incident took place near the U.S./NATO-led coalition’s headquarters and the German Embassy — in Kabul’s Green Zone neighborhood, considered the safest area in the capital.
According to the Hill, an unnamed U.S. State Department official revealed, “Eleven U.S. citizen contract personnel were injured in the attack in Kabul. None of their injuries appear to be life-threatening.”
The Green Zone in Kabul – home to foreign embassies, press bureaus, and government offices – is protected by ten-feet-high walls and heavily guarded by national police and security forces.
In a statement, Afghanistan’s Ministry of Interior Affairs said it condemned “in the strongest terms the terrorist attack” that killed so many, including women and children.
“These heinous acts go against the values of humanity as well values of peaceful Afghans,” it added.
Estimates for the number of casualties vary, but CBS News learned from Afghanistan’s Health Ministry “that the blast left at least 80 dead and 463 wounded, and that most of the casualties were civilians, including women and children.” That death toll has since been raised to an estimated 90.
No specific group has officially claimed responsibility for the massacre.
However, Human Rights Watch notes, “Afghan groups affiliated with the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) claimed responsibility for several similarly large-scale suicide attacks targeting civilians in July and October 2016, and social media accounts associated with the groups reportedly acknowledged today’s attack.”
The most prominent terrorist group in the country, the Afghan Taliban, has denied any involvement and condemned the attack.
Despite the Taliban’s assertion that it is only targeting Kabul-linked security troops and foreign forces in Afghanistan, civilians in the country have borne the brunt of their attacks.
The Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), considered a rival by the Taliban, is known to operate in Afghanistan and launch attacks against civilians in Kabul, particularly during Ramadan.
Nevertheless, the New York Times (NYT) points out, “In recent years, the Taliban have frequently denied responsibility for attacks that intelligence officials believe the insurgents actually did commit.”
Various news outlets have deemed the attack one of the worst in Kabul since the U.S. dramatically reduced its military presence and officially ended the American combat mission in Afghanistan at the end of 2014.
In a statement, the U.S./NATO-led coalition revealed:
The vigilance and courage of Afghan security forces prevented the VBIED [vehicle-borne improvised explosive device] from gaining entry to the Green Zone, but the explosion caused civilian casualties in the vicinity.
The attack demonstrates a complete disregard for civilians and reveals the barbaric nature of the enemy faced by the Afghan people. It also highlights the hypocrisy of the enemy who claim that they only target Afghan Security Forces and Foreign forces, yet continue to cause death and suffering amongst innocent Afghans.
According to the German Embassy, an Afghan security official and some of its workers are among the casualties. BBC also confirms that the attack killed Afghan driver Mohammed Nazir and injured four of its journalists. War-devastated Afghanistan is one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists.
There tends to be an increase in Islamic terrorist attacks during Ramadan. Jihadist organizations capitalize on the holiest month for Muslims to encourage martyrdom.
The recent attack in Kabul comes amid deteriorating security conditions across Afghanistan, primarily at the hands of the Taliban. Muslims who adhere to the tradition that perceives Ramadan as a month of jihad and martyrdom believe jihadists who gain martyrdom during that period are doubly rewarded in heaven:
— Long War Journal (@LongWarJournal) May 30, 2017
“Our fight is Jihad & obligatory worship, reward for every obligatory act of worship is multiplied x70 in #Ramadan,” wrote the Taliban spokesman on Twitter on the first full day of the holy month, May 27, according to the Long War Journal.
“Calls for stopping Jihad in this holy month is ignorance of religion. Hurting civilians during #Ramadan & otherwise is a crime,” he reportedly added in a separate tweet.