A suicide bomber killed at least 12 people and wounded more than 40, many just arriving for work, in a busy pedestrian alley next to Afghanistan's Interior Ministry yesterday, officials said.
The blast was the second major suicide attack in Kabul last month, underscoring the dangers creeping into the once relatively calm capital as militants step up attacks across the country.
Interior Ministry spokesman Zemeri Bashary said the bombing killed 12 people, including two women and a child, and wounded 42.
Salam Jalali, a Public Health Ministry official, said 54 had been hurt. He said the wounded had been taken to six different Kabul hospitals, complicating officials' efforts to keep track of the casualties.
The explosion happened just before 8am near a narrow dirt road where employees and civilians pass through a security gate. Shops, roadside photographers and men who fill out Interior Ministry paperwork for illiterate Afghans give the busy area a cross-section of commerce and government workers.
The top UN official in the country condemned the "callous attack against innocent Afghans who were simply going to work."
"It is wrong for any conflict to be played out in a civilian arena with such wanton disregard for so many innocent lives," said Tom Koenigs, who heads the UN mission in Afghanistan.
Bashary said that the suicide attacker had been acting suspiciously, then had tried to get near a gathering of people just beyond a police checkpoint.
"The police warned him to stop, and then he detonated [his explosives]," Bashary said.
A witness said he saw the bomber run from police, who had tried to search him.
"The bomber ran into the area [past the checkpoint], and the policeman took out his gun ... and then the guy detonated himself," Ahmed Ramin said. "We saw lots of people killed and injured on the streets."
The blast shattered nearby shops' windows, overturned tables and hurled them to the backs of rooms. At least three shops were destroyed. Ambulances rushed to and from the bomb scene, which police cordoned off.
Major Luke Knittig, a spokesman for NATO's international security force that controls much of Afghanistan, said the latest attack shows the insurgents "recognize the significance of this nation's capital."
"They recognize we have them under pressure in their strongholds in the south and the east, so this does fit into, sadly, what we expected somewhat to see, them resorting to this kind of tactic, hitting softer targets and getting the additional significance attached to hitting the nations' capital," he said.