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Terror blast at Kabul mall takes 2 lives

Associated Press / February 15, 2011

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KABUL, Afghanistan — A suicide bomber struck Kabul’s first Western-style shopping mall yesterday, killing two security guards at the entrance to the complex. It was the second attack in less than a month targeting a site frequented by foreigners and upscale Afghans in the heavily secured capital.

The Ministry of Interior said the bomber detonated his explosives at the gates of the Kabul City Center shopping mall, which also houses the four-star Safi Landmark hotel. Two people were wounded in the blast.

“I was just outside my restaurant and suddenly I heard a huge explosion,’’ said Ahmad Shah, 23, who works in a small eatery near the Safi Landmark. “I saw a large fire right at the gate of the City Center.’’

The blast destroyed the guarded entrance to the building and blew out windows. Several shops nearby also were damaged.

Zabiullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, claimed responsibility for the attack in a mobile phone text message sent to reporters.

Government officials, businessmen, and foreigners regularly hold meetings at the Safi Landmark.

The Safi was heavily damaged a year ago when suicide attackers struck two residential hotels nearby, killing 20 people, including nine foreigners. After that attack, shops at the center, which sell jewelry, electronics, and clothing, were closed for months.

Shopkeepers nearby said yesterday’s damage appeared to be confined to the guarded entrance area, which was fortified shortly after last year’s attack.

President Hamid Karzai condemned the bombing, which he said was aimed at civilians. “Targeting a nonmilitary location shows how desperate and hopeless the enemies of Afghanistan have become,’’ he said in a statement.

It was the first bombing in the capital since Jan. 28, when a suicide attacker blew himself up at an upscale Kabul supermarket, killing eight people.

Elsewhere in Afghanistan, NATO said a homemade bomb killed a coalition service member in the south of the country but did not provide details.

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