Today’s bombing in a crowded area of central Kabul was yet another reminder of how deadly the war has become for ordinary Afghan civilians. The morning rush hour attack in Zanbaq Square, close to the presidential palace and a number of foreign embassies, killed at least 80 people and wounded hundreds, making it the worst such attack in Kabul in decades.
No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack; the Taliban have reportedly condemned it. 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 bomb, apparently hidden inside a water or sewage tanker truck, exploded in the street near the German Embassy compound, shattering windows in homes and offices across central Kabul. The Kabul Emergency Hospital sustained damage, but tweeted that its staff were nevertheless helping scores of wounded brought in from the blast site. Photos of those killed are now emerging on social media, reminding us all that the death toll is not just a number.
Civilian casualties have reached record levels as the Afghan conflict has intensified this past year, with two-thirds of civilian casualties caused by insurgent groups launching suicide attacks or using improvised explosive devices in densely populated areas. Attacks of this kind that deliberately or indiscriminately target civilians are war crimes, and could amount to crimes against humanity if found to be part of a widespread or systematic attack on the civilian population.
Today’s contemptible act is a grim indication that Afghan civilians will continue to bear the brunt of Afghanistan’s war.