The police chief of the Afghan capital said Tuesday's attack appeared to target a branch of the privately owned Kabul Bank, near the US Embassy. Separately, at least 13 civilians died in an Afghan air strike targeting the Taliban in Herat Province.

An Afghan security force stands guard at the site of a suicide bomb attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 29, 2017.
An Afghan security force stands guard at the site of a suicide bomb attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 29, 2017. ( Reuters )

A suicide bombing on Tuesday in a busy commercial area in Kabul, near a string of banks and not far from the US Embassy, killed at least five people, Afghan officials said.

According to Basir Mujahid, spokesman for the Kabul police chief, the explosion likely targeted a branch of the privately owned Kabul Bank. The US Embassy compound is located about 500 metres (yards) down the road from the bank.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which came as banks were busy with people taking out money ahead of the Muslim Eid al Adha holiday at the end of the week, saying it had targeted soldiers and police withdrawing their salaries.

TRT World spoke with journalist Bilal Sarwary in Kabul for more.

Attack targeted Muslims ahead of holiday

The Taliban, fighting to restore Islamic law and drive out international forces backing the government in Kabul,  have carried out many of the attacks. Other militant groups, including the affiliated Haqqani network and the local branch of Daesh, have carried out others.    

At the site of the blast, debris and twisted metal lay scattered on the pavement. The front side of the Kabul Bank was completely shattered and there was much damage to the fronts of several adjacent businesses. A charred motorcycle with its parts mangled lay on the street.

Along with the five killed, the attack also wounded nine, said Mohammad Salim Rasouli, chief of Kabul hospitals at the Health Ministry. He warned that those were only initial reports and that the casualty toll could rise further.

This week, the Kabul banks have been especially crowded as Muslims prepare for Eid al Adha or "feast of the sacrifice." It's an Islamic holiday that commemorates the willingness of the Prophet Ibrahim  ̶  also known as Abraham to Christians and Jews  ̶  to sacrifice his son before God stayed his hand.

The holiday begins on the 10th day of the Islamic lunar month of Dhul-Hijja, during the Hajj pilgrimage.

Two months ago, ahead of the Eid al Fitr Muslim holiday, a Taliban suicide bomber targeted a Kabul Bank branch in southern Helmand province, killing at least 29 people, mostly civilians.

Kabul has also seen a sharp increase in attacks lately.

Last week, 28 people, including women and children, were killed when Daesh militants attacked a Shia mosque during Friday prayers.

In that attack, more than 50 people were also wounded after two assailants blew themselves up. Another two attackers were shot dead by Afghan security forces.

The UN says 209 civilians have been killed and 777 wounded in attacks on Kabul in the first half of this year.

Afghan air strike kills civilians

In another development, at least 13 civilians, including women and children, were killed in an overnight air strike by Afghan security forces that targeted the Taliban in western Herat province, according to Gelani Farhad, spokesman for the provincial governor.

Farhad said the Monday night strike in Shindand district also wounded seven civilians. A Taliban base and a prison run by the insurgents were targeted, he said. 

The prison was destroyed and 19 prisoners  ̶̶  both military and civilians escaped. The civilians who were killed died in their homes just next to the Taliban base, he added.

According to the spokesman, the air strikes also killed 16 Taliban militants. The Taliban have not commented on the Herat attack and Farhad's information could not be independently verified. Afghan officials are investigating the reports.

Civilian casualties caused by US air strikes in Afghanistan have long been a source of friction been the US-backed government and international forces, but over the past two years, the reformed Afghan air force has been conducting more of its own strikes.

Defence Ministry spokesman Dawlat Waziri said Afghan aircraft had conducted a strike on a Taliban target in the western province and had killed 18 insurgents and said officials were investigating reports civilians had also been killed.

A spokesman for the NATO-led international support mission in Kabul referred questions to the defence ministry.

"Our understanding that this was an Afghan Air Force strike," he said.

Source: AP