A female suicide car bomber attacked a van in Kabul yesterday, killing 12 people, including eight South Africans, in an assault insurgents said was in revenge for an anti-Islam film made in the US.
The bombing on a highway leading to Kabul international airport was the second suicide attack in the heavily fortified city in 10 days, reviving questions about stability as NATO accelerates a troop withdrawal and hands over to Afghan forces by the end of 2014.
A photographer saw at least six bodies lying among the wreckage of a gutted minivan, and another vehicle destroyed by flames still burning in the middle of the highway, with debris flung all around.
“At around 6:45am a suicide bomber using a sedan blew himself up along the airport road in District 15. As a result, nine workers of a foreign company and three Afghan civilians are dead, and two police are wounded,” police said in a statement.
An Afghan and a Western security official said nine foreigners were killed. The South African foreign ministry said eight of its citizens were among the dead.
“The foreigners were from a private company working at the airport,” the Afghan official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
A spokesman for NATO’s US-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said it had no reports that its personnel were among the casualties.
Afghanistan’s second largest insurgent group, Hezb-i-Islami, claimed responsibility, saying it was carried out by a woman in response to the film the Innocence of Muslims, which has sparked a week of furious anti-US riots across Asia, North Africa and the Middle East.
“The bombing was carried out by a woman named Fatima. The bombing was in retaliation for the insult to our Prophet,” spokesman Zubair Sidiqi in a telephone call from an undisclosed location.
It is extremely rare for the faction to claim a suicide attack in Afghanistan. It is also rare for women, few of whom drive in Afghanistan, to carry out suicide attacks.
A police investigator said he believed the bomber was female, after finding parts of a woman’s leg.
Meanwhile, in Bangkok, police say 400 people protested peacefully outside the US embassy against the film. About 700 police were on hand yesterday to maintain order for the demonstration, organized by a group called the International Al Quds Federation of Thailand. The group had called for a peaceful protest on its Facebook page.
Protesters carried signs and banners saying “We love Prophet Mohammed” and “Stop insulting our religion,” and chanted “Down with America” and “Down with Israel.”
In related news, al-Qaeda’s franchise in North Africa yesterday urged Muslims to storm US embassies and kill US envoys in Muslim countries in protest over the film, a monitoring group said.
“We call on Islam’s youths to take after the lions of Benghazi [in Libya] by pulling down America’s flags that are flying over all of its embassies in our capitals,” said al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, according to IntelCenter.
The group’s written statement was dated on Saturday, IntelCenter said.