KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A suicide bomber rammed a car packed with explosives into a mini-bus carrying foreign aviation workers to the airport in the Afghan capital early Tuesday, killing at least nine people in an attack a militant group said was revenge for an anti-Islam film that ridicules the Prophet Muhammad.
The criminal director for the Kabul police department, Mohammad Zahir, said eight men believed to be foreign nationals working for an aviation company at the airport died in the blast and 10 Afghan bystanders were wounded. Another person killed was believed to be Afghan.
Haroon Zarghoon, a spokesman for the Islamist militant group Hizb-i-Islami, claimed responsibility for the dawn attack in an email to The Associated Press. He said it was carried out by a 22-year-old woman named Fatima. It was the first reported suicide car bombing ever to be carried out by a woman in Afghanistan.
It came a day after hundreds of Afghans burned cars and threw rocks at a US military base in the capital in a demonstration against the an anti-Islam film. One police vehicle was burned by the mob before they finally dispersed around midday Monday.
Kabul police chief Gen. Mohammad Ayub Salangi said Tuesday’s explosion took place near an avenue northwest of the city center near Kabul International Airport. The blast, which went off in front a gas station, was so powerful it hurled the mini-bus at least 50 meters (yards).
Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqi confirmed the death toll and said tests were being carried out to determine if the suicide bomber was a woman.
An eyewitness at the scene said he was waiting for a bus to go to work at 6:45 a.m. when he saw a small white sedan ram into the mini-bus.
“The explosion was so powerful and loud that I could not hear anything for 10 minutes,” said Abdullah Shah, a teacher waiting at a bus stop. “It was early and there wasn’t much traffic or there would have been many An AP reporter at the scene of the blast aw at least six bodies next to the destroyed mini-bus.
Hizb-i-Islami is led by former warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. The group has recently sought to participate in a so-far fruitless peace and reconciliation effort led by President Hamid Karzai.
As part of the group’s effort, it offered a peace plan that called for a broad-based government. Hizb-i-Islami is a radical Islamist militia that has thousands of fighters and followers across the north and east of Afghanistan. Its 65-year-old leader is a former Afghan prime minister and one-time US ally who is now listed as a terrorist by Washington.
The Taliban have also threatened to increase their attacks against foreign targets to avenge the controversial film. Taliban fighters last week attacked a large British base in southern Afghanistan, killed two US Marines and destroyed six fighter jets. NATO forces killed 14 insurgents and captured another who participated in the attack.