Bomb Rattles Afghanistan's Capital
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
And let's go next to Kabul, Afghanistan, where an explosion went off today. It wounded several people and shattered windows at the Ministry of Justice downtown. A spokesman for the NATO-led peacekeeping force said the cause of this blast has not been determined, but an Afghan police official said it was a bomb planted in a cart behind a car. NPR's J.J. Sutherland is at the scene of the blast.
And J.J., what do you see?
J.J. SUTHERLAND reporting:
I'm standing in front of the Ministry of Justice, which is a four-story yellow building with the windows completely blown out. They have been throwing the glass down for the past half hour or so. There were two blown-out cars, which they've now towed away. There's people milling around, they've reopened the square to traffic. Right across the square is the presidential palace, nearby is the Ministry of Finance, the police station, and the only five-star hotel in Kabul. An eyewitness told me there were six people that were injured, two of them inside a taxicab. Also the chief investigator for the Ministry of the Interior told me that it is unclear what the target was, whether they were just transporting these explosives, or whether they were actually targeting the Ministry of Justice.
INSKEEP: J.J., I know we do hear about explosions in Afghanistan, from time to time, but is it unusual to hear about a bombing - an alleged bombing in the capital itself?
SUTHERLAND: It is unusual. They happen occasionally. The last one was a few months ago. I talked to a few people who saw this one, who were surprised, though, that it was in the heart of Kabul.
INSKEEP: Hmm. Now, there's been considerable fighting in other parts of the country. And let's talk about what's happening there in southern Afghanistan. Why has the fighting increased there?
(Soundbite of car horns)
SUTHERLAND: In southern Afghanistan, a massive operation is going on, the largest one since the fall of the Taliban in 2001. It involves 10,000 U.S., British, Dutch and Afghan troops. And they're pushing into areas where there have been no coalition troops there at all before. But there has been fierce resistance. The Taliban have definitely rearmed, regrouped, and there has been incredible amounts of fighting. Just yesterday, a group of 30 insurgents attacked a coalition convoy. They were repulsed. Twenty of them were killed. That brings it up to more than 600 Afghans who have been killed since May, since this operation began.
And that has actually brought some criticism, even from the government of Afghanistan, saying air strikes, house searches, are causing needless bloodshed.
INSKEEP: Doesn't all this happen just at the moment when NATO was going to be taking much more control in the south?
SUTHERLAND: Yes. The four southern provinces are going to be taken over by NATO by the end of the month. The official planned date is July 31st. But these British, Dutch and Canadian troops are already there and already fighting, even if it is under American command. What's interesting about this deployment is unlike in the past, when many NATO troops, because of the politics at home, have had caveats, whether they can carry weapons, whether they can fight offensively. But the British, Dutch and Canadian troops have no caveats, and they are already experiencing heavy fighting. In fact, there are a number of coalition troops killed over the weekend.
INSKEEP: Okay. That's NPR's J.J. Sutherland on a busy street in Kabul, Afghanistan, where an explosion occurred today. Several people were injured.
J.J., thanks very much.
SUTHERLAND: You're welcome, Steve.
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