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Massive Bomb Blast Reverberates Across Afghan Capital Kabul


In Kabul, Afghanistan, there's a street lined with heavily secured embassies. It's also the location of hotels, a TV station, other prominent buildings, which is to say prominent possible targets. And it was on that street that a bomb exploded today. Many people have been killed and wounded, and we're going to talk about this with New York Times correspondent Mujib Mashal, who's on the line from Kabul.

Welcome to the program.

MUJIB MASHAL: Thanks for having me.

INSKEEP: Would you tell us the story from the beginning? What kind of day was it in Kabul, and then what happened?

MASHAL: Well, first thing, it was morning rush hour, just after 8 in the morning. And it's Ramadan, which - most people are fasting. So people were making their way to work. The roundabout where the explosion happened is a very crowded roundabout. It leads to the presidential palace. It leads to the German Embassy. It leads to the headquarters of the coalition forces. But there are also a lot of civilian buildings in the area - markets and television stations and banks. And that's where a massive explosion - people described it as a tremble, almost of an earthquake, first, and then a boom that was heard across the city.

And from what we hear, it was a truck bomb in a truck that usually carries a water tanker or sort of - of that sort. And it created a huge crater, and the windows were shattered at a radius of about a mile, including our offices. We were about 500 meters from that site. But it shook most of the city, the central part of the city, and it sent people into panic.

INSKEEP: And what was the aftermath like?

MASHAL: It was chaos. It was chaos because the security forces quickly cordoned off the area. But because it is such a crowded area, a lot of people gathered around the cordon trying to figure out what was happening to their loved ones. And then once the ambulances evacuated people, a lot of people rushed to the main hospital. So there were hundreds of people around the two or three main hospitals trying to check the lists of the injured or trying to find out where their loved ones were.

So it was chaos. It was uncertainty. But there was also a lot of confusion at the scene among (inaudible). I was there. And sort of the (inaudible) and the police officers - the emotions were so high that they almost got into scuffles at each other because they were skeptical of everything trying to pass into the area because there had been such a massive security breach. And they were nervous, and they were scared that there could be a follow-up explosion also.

INSKEEP: So you've described this tragic scene at a busy roundabout in Kabul, Afghanistan. How is that fitting into the broader war there? Has anybody taken responsibility? And is it part of any pattern that you can tell?

MASHAL: Well, there have been a bunch of these kind of massive truck bombings in Kabul over the years. There was one - there was a couple last year and then the year before. And in terms of the broader reality of the war, most of the violence that is happening in the country, the Taliban are still responsible for most of the intensifying violence. But on this particular attack, that so far we know killed about 80 people and wounded more than 300, they - the Taliban put out a statement denying any responsibility. And no one else has claimed responsibility yet.

But - so the attack is happening in a reality where, yes, the Taliban are intensifying, and they are the major (inaudible) terrorism group. But there is also a local affiliate of the Islamic State that have claimed these - some of the recent suicide bombings and attacks in urban centers. So the security situation about 16 years into this long war is continuing to deteriorate. The government is losing control in the countryside. And it's struggling to prevent major attacks in very highly secured areas in the capital, which further raises questions about their ability to protect their population.

INSKEEP: OK. Mujib Mashal is in Kabul, Afghanistan. Thanks very much. Really appreciate it.

MASHAL: Thank you.

INSKEEP: He's talking to us about the aftermath of a bombing in Kabul. He reports that about 80 people have been killed, and the Taliban have denied responsibility for this attack. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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