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Blast at Kabul supermarket kills 8

The explosion, the most serious in months in the Afghan capital, is apparently the work of a suicide bomber.

January 28, 2011|By Laura King | Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan — A powerful blast tore through a supermarket popular with foreigners in the Afghan capital Friday, and police said at least eight people were killed and a dozen hurt.

The neighborhood is home to a number of Western embassies and other international organizations, and the attack was an ominous sign that insurgents remain able to penetrate the most tightly guarded districts of Kabul.

Witnesses said some foreigners appeared to be among the dead and injured, and the Reuters news agency said one of those killed was a child. The blast heightened anxiety among the international community, which has been rattled in recent months by President Hamid Karzai's move to rein in private security firms, which provide protection to most foreign installations.

The explosion, the most serious attack in months in Kabul, was apparently caused by a suicide bomber, according to Gen. Mohammed Zahir, the head of criminal investigations with the Kabul police. The blast gutted the first floor of the grocery store, igniting small fires, shattering the storefront windows and tossing about canned goods and other food items. Smoke billowed into the air and bloodied victims staggered into the street.

The explosion shattered what had been a relative lull in attacks in the capital over the past year, although violence had been creeping up in recent weeks. Western military officials had attributed the slowdown in suicide bombings and other attacks in Kabul to an intense campaign by NATO forces targeting midlevel commanders belonging to the Taliban and to an offshoot, the Pakistan-based Haqqani network, which was blamed for a series of major attacks in the capital in the past three years.

Friday is the main prayer day of the Muslim week, when many shops and businesses close. But it was a busy day at the supermarket, since it caters to a mainly foreign clientele, together with wealthy Afghans. Security at the store was relatively light; although armed guards watched over the entrance, customers were not stopped and searched as is common practice at most foreigner-frequented restaurants.

laura.king@latimes.com

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