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A suicide attack rocked the Afghan capital this morning, killing at least six people and injuring dozens more. A violent faction of Hizb-e-Islami claimed responsibility for the attack, dampening hopes that the group might take an active role in the peace process.
A car laden with explosives reportedly rammed a NATO convoy in eastern Kabul at 8:00 a.m. during rush hour traffic. The explosion destroyed at least one of the NATO vehicles while it was moving through a difficult spot in the road and caused damage to surrounding shops and houses, reports Pajhwok Afghan News.
“I heard firing first. When I looked from the window I heard a big explosion and saw smoke and flame rising from the cars on the road,” said Yar Mohammad, in an interview with the Washington Post. He witnessed the attack and suffered minor injuries when the window near him blew out from the explosion. “It was very powerful explosion and totally destroyed one of the vehicles used by foreign forces and several other cars.”
The International Security Assistance Force has yet to release details about those killed and injured in the explosion but it issued a statement on Thursday morning indicating that two service members and four ISAF contractors had been killed in an improvised explosive attack in Kabul.
Officials from Hizb-e-Islami said the attack was part of an effort to attack NATO troops and Afghan civilians working with them.
The officials from the group also claim that they’ve created a special “martyrdom” unit to attack foreign forces in Afghanistan, reports the Associated Press. The attack and subsequent announcement could indicate a shift for the group, which once avoided suicide attacks and military operations that could harm civilians.
In September, the Monitor reported that Hizb-e-Islami used a female suicide bomber to carry out its last attack in Kabul that killed 12 people. The group’s leadership said the attack was in response to the anti-Islamic “Innocence of Muslims” YouTube video.
Hizb-e-Islami is broken into two factions. The one that carried out the attacks on Thursday and in September is loyal to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a US ally during the Soviet war in Afghanistan who has since become a staunch enemy, leading his group in violent opposition to the foreign presence in Afghanistan. The other faction is nonviolent and largely loyal to the Afghan government, but is sometimes sympathetic to the violent faction.
Prior to the bombing in September, many in Kabul had hoped the group might take a greater role in negotiations with the Afghan government. It had previously taken liberal positions such a supporting girls’ education and criticizing insurgent groups that attacked reconstruction projects. The attack in September dashed many of these hopes. And Thursday’s attack, combined with statements by the group’s spokesman that they plan to increase attacks is likely to further dampen these hopes.
“Hizb-e-Islami is viewed as a liberal opponent of the government, so in the long-term it will negatively affect their standing among the Afghans if they intensify their fighting and carry out more attacks, but they still want to show themselves as a strong player in the current conflict,” Muhammad Hassan Haqyar, an independent political analyst in Kabul, told The Christian Science Monitor following last September’s attack.
Thursday’s attack was the first major bombing inside Kabul since March when a suicide bombing targeted the Defense Ministry. The BBC reports that the attack against its convoy is yet another incident in what has been a violent month for international forces in Afghanistan. Since the beginning of this month, 15 international troops have been killed in separate incidents.