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Ghani Says More Than 150 Killed In Kabul Truck Bombing


Mourners carry the coffin of one of the 150 victims killed in Kabul on May 31.
Mourners carry the coffin of one of the 150 victims killed in Kabul on May 31.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani says that more than 150 people have died as a result of the massive tanker-truck bombing that struck a busy Kabul neighborhood during rush hour on May 31.

"More than 150 innocent Afghan sons and daughters were killed and more than 300 wounded were brought to hospitals with burns and amputations," Ghani told a multinational peace conference in Kabul on June 6.

Officials had previously put the death toll at 90, already making it the deadliest attack in the Afghan capital since the ouster of the Taliban from power in 2001.

The blast occurred when a truck packed with what Ghani called "military-grade" explosives detonated in Kabul's diplomatic quarter.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

The president paid homage to 13 police officers he said stopped the vehicle at the entrance to the fortified area and died in the blast.

"We were not the only targets. The entire diplomatic community was the target of this attack," Ghani told representatives of about 20 countries gathered for the one-day Kabul Process conference.

He called Afghanistan "a nation of survivors," adding: "Terrorists can shed our blood but they cannot break our will," he said.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but the government blamed the Pakistan-based Haqqani network, which is allied to the Afghan Taliban.

The bombing has sparked calls for the resignation of Afghanistan’s national unity government, which was established under a power-sharing deal hammered out months after a disputed presidential election in 2014. Ghani is president, while Abdullah Abdullah is chief executive.

On June 2, at least five people were killed and around 20 wounded in deadly clashes between police and antigovernment protesters. And at least seven other people were killed and around 100 injured on June 3 after three suicide bombers detonated their explosives at the funeral of one of the protesters.

On June 6, a blast near the Great Mosque in the western city of Herat killed seven people and injured at last 12, officials said. Police said initial information suggested the blast was caused by a bomb hidden in a motorcycle.

The attacks have exacerbated tensions between rival, ethnically based political groups in Afghanistan, with Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani calling for the dismissal of the country's top security chiefs.

Rabbani, who heads the mainly ethnic Tajik Jamiat-e Islami political group, said on June 5 that the attacks in Kabul raised questions about the "security institutions and their abilities."

He blamed "terrorists within the system," suggesting elements in the government were behind the attack.

Speaking at the opening of the June 6 conference, Ghani reiterated his criticism of Pakistan, accusing it of waging an "undeclared war of aggression" against his country.

Afghan security officials claim that the Haqqani network enjoys Pakistan’s support, a claim rejected as "baseless" by Islamabad.

Afghanistan and Pakistan have long accused each other of turning a blind eye to militants operating along their common border.

Ghani also renewed his call on the Taliban to agree to peace negotiations and join the political process, saying the militants would not succeed in bringing down the government.

"We are offering a chance for peace, but this is not an open-ended offer," Ghani said. "Time is running out."

He offered the Taliban the opportunity to open a representative office and said he was flexible about the location of future talks.

He warned the militant group that "this is the last chance," adding: "Take it or face consequences."

Afghan security forces are battling a 16-year-long insurgency led by the Taliban, an extremist group that was driven from power after a U.S.-led invasion following the September 11, 2001, terror attacks. The United States and its allies targeted the Taliban because the group, which had seized control of nearly all of Afghanistan in the 1990s, harbored Al-Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden.

The Taliban, which is refusing to negotiate with Kabul until all foreign forces leave the country, has expanded its reach since most international forces left the country in 2014.

The United States is considering whether to send 3,000 to 5,000 more military advisers to help train and assist Afghan security forces.

Police have locked down much of the city ahead of the Kabul Process, with more armed checkpoints and armored vehicles patrolling the streets.

Representatives from Russia, Pakistan, India, the United States, Britain, and other countries were attending the gathering, which aims to build international support for ways to restore security in the country.

As the conference got under way, a rocket landed at an Indian guesthouse in the heavily guarded Green Zone, Tolo News reported. No casualties were reported.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, AP, and Tolo News

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