Bomb Attack on Bus Kills Dozens in Afghanistan

Investigators search for evidence in and around the wreckage of a police bus at the site of a bomb b i i

Investigators search for evidence in and around the wreckage of a bus at the site of a bomb blast in Kabul. Shah Marai/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Shah Marai/AFP/Getty Images
Investigators search for evidence in and around the wreckage of a police bus at the site of a bomb b

Investigators search for evidence in and around the wreckage of a bus at the site of a bomb blast in Kabul.

Shah Marai/AFP/Getty Images

An enormous bomb ripped through a bus carrying police in the Afghan capital on Sunday, killing at least 35 people. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, the deadliest since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.

The thunderous explosion sheared the metal sidings and roof off the bus, leaving only a charred skeleton. The attack was a leap in scale from previous Taliban or al-Qaida bombings in Afghanistan.

At least 35 people were killed, including 22 policemen, said Ahmed Zia Aftali, head of Kabul's military hospital. At least 35 others were wounded, hospital officials said. A victim said the bus had been filled with police instructors.

A purported Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousef Ahmadi, said a suicide bomber named Mullah Asim Abdul Rahman caused the blast. Rahman, 23, was a Taliban militiaman from Kabul province, said Ahmadi, who called an Associated Press reporter by satellite phone from an undisclosed location. His claim could not be verified.

If confirmed, it would be the fifth suicide attack in Afghanistan in three days.

Unidentifiable body parts littered the blast site. Hundreds of police and investigators - with some pulling bodies from the wreckage - ordered civilians to leave the area, an outdoor bus station normally teeming with people.

At a nearby hospital, a large blue plastic trash can overflowed with the bloodied shoes and sandals of victims.

"Never in my life have I heard such a sound," said Ali Jawad, a 48-year-old selling phone cards nearby. "A big fireball followed. I saw blood and a decapitated man thrown out of the bus.

Wounded people were shouting, 'Help me, help me,' and women and children were shouting and running in different directions."

At least one person on the bus survived the 8:10 a.m. attack. Nasir Ahmad, 22, was sitting in the back of the bus when the blast went off.

"There were between 30 to 40 police instructors in the bus," Ahmad said from a hospital bed where he was recovering from wounds to his face and hands.

Despite the Taliban claim, officials were trying to determine if the explosion, which went off in the front of the bus, was caused by a suicide attacker or a bomb that had been planted.

A civilian bus also damaged in the blast was driving just in front of the police vehicle when the blast went off, and a police officer at the scene said the bus' position likely prevented other civilian casualties.

Fazel Rahim, a doctor from a nearby hospital, said more than 35 wounded were being treated inside the building.

"Most of the wounded are in serious condition," said Rahim, whose hands and white coat were covered in blood.

Afghan government officials, police and army soldiers are commonly targeted by insurgents trying to bring down the U.S.-backed government of President Hamid Karzai.

A police and army force that can provide security around the country on its own is essential to the U.S. and NATO strategy of handing over security responsibilities to the Afghan government one day, allowing Western forces to leave.

Buses carrying Afghan police and army soldiers have been targeted before.

In May, a remote-control bomb hit an Afghan army bus in Kabul, killing the driver and wounding 29 people. In October, a bomb placed on a bicycle exploded as a police bus went by in Kabul,

wounding 11. Last July, a remote-controlled bomb blew up near an Afghan army bus in downtown Kabul, wounding 39 people on board.

From The Associated Press

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