35 killed by bomb at Afghan clinic
Taliban deny responsibility
KABUL — A suicide car bomber blasted a small clinic yesterday in eastern Afghanistan, causing the building to collapse as mostly women and children lined up for vaccinations, maternity care, and other services. At least 35 people were killed in one of the deadliest attacks against civilians this year.
Guards saw a sport utility vehicle charging toward the Akbarkhail Public Medical Center, a compound that provides health care for the mountainous area in the Azra district of Logar Province. But before anyone could shoot the driver or blow out the tires, the SUV smashed through a wall and exploded, officials said.
Wary of being blamed for civilian casualties, the Taliban denied they were behind the bombing. Violence has been on the rise since the Islamic movement launched its spring offensive and promised retaliation for the death of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
“This attack was not done by our fighters,’’ Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said in a telephone interview.
Survivors of the blast and others who heard the explosion frantically dug through the rubble with shovels and bare hands. At least 35 bodies were pulled from the debris and 53 other people were wounded, provincial public health director Dr. Mohammad Zaref Nayebkhail said.
The victims included patients, visitors, and medical staffers.
“They were offering important services for the people,’’ Nayebkhail said. “We had very good services and lots of patients. There were only 10 beds but lots of other services in that center. It’s why the casualties were so high.’’
Nayebkhail said an Afghan Army helicopter was dispatched to the area to deliver medical supplies and to ferry survivors to other hospitals.
The Taliban claim they do not target civilians, but the movement is fractured and yesterday’s attacks shared characteristics of recent violence.
The attack was the deadliest since February, when three men shot to death 38 people at a Kabul Bank branch in Jalalabad. The Taliban claimed responsibility.
The Taliban also claimed responsibility for a bomb attack in February in the northern province of Kunduz that killed 31 people as they waited for government identification cards.
A recent UN report found that May was the deadliest month for civilians since it began keeping track in 2007, and it said insurgents were to blame for 82 percent of the 368 deaths recorded.
Late Friday, another blast — this one caused by a bicycle rigged with explosives — ripped through a bazaar in the Khanabad district of Kunduz Province in northern Afghanistan, killing at least 10 people and wounding 24, according to an Interior Ministry statement.
The bombings raised concerns about the readiness of Afghans to take over their own security as the US and other NATO nations begin to withdraw forces. President Obama said Wednesday that he plans to withdraw 10,000 US troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year. NATO officials insist the Afghan government will be prepared for full sovereignty by 2014.