Afghan police: 7 die in series of blasts in Kabul |

Afghan police: 7 die in series of blasts in Kabul

Associated Press Writer

KABUL (AP) – Two suicide bombers attacked in the heart of Kabul on Friday, triggering a series of explosions and gunbattles that killed at least seven people near a hotel and guest houses used by foreigners, police and eyewitnesses said.

The target of the early morning attacks, which wounded at least 20 others, remained unclear. Witnesses said one explosion created a crater – about 3 feet (1 meter) wide – in front of a guest house, which was destroyed. Another guest house was heavily damaged, and the windows of the hotel were blown out.

More than two hours after the first explosion, gunfire continued to ring out around one of the guest houses. Police with gas masks were attempting to smoke out a suspected attacker holed up in the basement of the building, according to a police officer at the scene who only gave his first name, Abdulrahman.

At least two Afghan policemen were among those killed in the blasts, which woke up residents near the Kabul City Center, a nine-story shopping area that includes the Safi Landmark Hotel, said Abdul Ghafor Sayedzada, a top investigator for the Kabul police.

Gen. Ahmad Zia Yaftali, the chief of the Afghan Defense Ministry’s health department, said seven bodies had been transported to military hospitals. He said foreigners were among the dead, but he did not know how many or their nationalities.

Sayed Kabir Amiry, director of the hospitals in the Afghan capital, said more than 20 people were wounded.

“I saw foreigners were crying and shouting,” said Najibullah, a 25-year-old hotel worker who ran out of the hotel in his underwear when he heard the first explosion.

Najibullah, whose face and hands were covered in blood, said he saw two suicide bombers on the site. “It was a very bad situation inside,” he said. “God helped me, otherwise I would be dead. I saw one suicide bomber blowing himself up.

The blasts occurred on the first day of the Afghan weekend when fewer people are on the streets.

A large plume of black smoke rose from the area. A building was on fire in front of the four-star hotel, which is close to most government offices. Shattered glass covered the streets. Afghan police, armed with Kalashnikov rifles, moved in, taking cover in the doorways of shops.

Jack Barton, an Australian national, said the explosion blew out the window of his room near the site.

“The room was filled with dust,” Barton said. “There was part of a car in the courtyard of the guest house and intense street fighting around the guest house for about an hour until it drifted a few streets away.”

It was the first attack in the Afghan capital since Jan. 18, when teams of suicide bombers and gunmen targeted government buildings, leaving 12 dead, including seven attackers.

Also, on Dec. 15, a suicide car bomber hit near a hotel frequented by foreigners, killing 8 people. In Oct. 28, gunmen with suicide vests stormed a guest house, leaving 11 dead, including 5 U.N. staff and 3 attackers. Earlier that month, on Oct. 8, a suicide car bomber detonated his vehicle outside the Indian Embassy, killing 17 people.