Radio Website Header-Waves 6 3.0.jpg
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Rush Hour Bombing Kills Scores And Injures Hundreds In Kabul

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

A car bomb exploded this morning in the heart of Afghanistan's capital, Kabul. The blast happened during rush hour. The casualties are still being counted but number in the dozens killed and hundreds more wounded. And let's talk about this with journalist Jennifer Glasse, who's on the line from Kabul.

Hi, Jennifer.

JENNIFER GLASSE: Hi, Steve.

INSKEEP: Would you describe the area in which this explosion took place?

GLASSE: It's a very main road in the center of Kabul, in the heart of the diplomatic district. So the German Embassy is just across the street. The Turkish Embassy not far away, the Indian Embassy - a whole number - a whole host of embassies in that area - but that being said, while those embassies are heavily fortified, the road is a very busy one. It's a main thoroughfare. It runs from the foreign ministry down all the way towards the American Embassy. And it is a main road. It's not just - on one side, it's called the Green Zone, this - where high blast walls protect these embassy and other government compounds.

But on the other side of the road are regular Afghan businesses, a major cell - the offices of a major cellphone company here, a popular television station, a hotel not far away - mostly all of the windows there blown out, many of the buildings very heavily damaged, including the German Embassy, which is behind those blast walls. That's how big the blast was.

INSKEEP: Is it possible to say what the target was among all those possible targets you just mentioned?

GLASSE: It's unclear whether the target was, for example, the television station. We've seen the Taliban target journalists recently. It's unclear whether it was one of the embassies or whether simply this water truck, which is what we understand it was, blew up where it could because it saw a checkpoint further ahead. There are a lot of police along that road because there - it also veers off to the presidential palace as well. So it's unclear what the target was.

But whoever set it off clearly intended to inflict the most damage and casualties they could. It was the middle of the morning rush hour, 8:30, so you had people going to work, children going to school. And to give you a sign - a sense of the blast, Steve, the crater's about 14 feet wide there where the truck blew up. They're still clearing away the debris.

I live about a mile away. And early this morning, I thought it was an earthquake. We have quite a few of those here in Kabul. First I thought it was an earthquake. And then there was just this - the shockwave of the blast came through, blowing open windows and doors in my compound. Some of my neighbors, their windows shattered. And that's a mile away from the blast. Closer to it, the effect was devastating.

INSKEEP: Jennifer Glasse, can you put this in context for us? - by which I mean, what's been happening in Kabul or around Afghanistan lately? What have recent days and months been like?

GLASSE: The Taliban, as they do in every spring, launched their spring offensive about a month ago. And we've seen an uptick of attacks, not only in Kabul but around the country. The Taliban are - have quite a strong showing, the Afghan security forces taking heavy casualties around the country. The Taliban and the American inspector general and NATO all concede that the Taliban either control or contest at least a third of the country.

We understand that there's Taliban presence just outside of Kabul as well. That's new. And it's not just the Taliban that we have to worry about, of course. The Islamic State, ISIS, is here in the east. But they have launched a couple of attacks here, one earlier this month on a NATO convoy, which killed eight civilians. And in March, they attacked the military hospital here in Kabul. So security has been tight, especially as the holy month of Ramadan started this week. And often there's an uptick in attacks then as well. But this bombing today shows really how difficult it is to protect against attacks like this.

INSKEEP: Do you have a sense the war is moving in any direction? Or is this just endless repetition of attacks and responses?

GLASSE: It's very difficult to know. You know, we've had a - we had a couple of very quiet, blissful weeks in beautiful springtime Kabul, only to be shattered by this. Certainly, the fighting is going on. But next week, the president is hoping to launch the Kabul Process, or further the Kabul Process, where he hopes to find some way to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table and get them off the battlefield.

INSKEEP: Jennifer, thanks very much.

GLASSE: Good to talk to you, Steve.

INSKEEP: That's Jennifer Glasse in Kabul. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.