Kabul, Aug 7: Two suicide attacks killed at least 35 people and wounded hundreds more in Kabul today, the first major attacks in the Afghan capital since the announcement of Taliban leader Mullah Omar's death. In the first attack, a powerful truck bomb tore through the centre of Kabul just after midnight last night, killing 15 civilians and wounding 240 others.
Less than 24 hours later, at least 20 Afghan cadets were killed when a suicide attacker dressed in police uniform blew himself up at the entrance of Kabul Police Academy.
The Taliban distanced themselves from the first bombing that struck near a Kabul military base -- as they usually do in attacks that result in a large number of civilian casualties. But the insurgents were quick to claim responsibility for the second attack, which marks a serious breach of security at a premier training institute for Afghan security forces.
The carnage highlights growing insecurity in the country amid a faltering peace process with the Taliban as Afghan forces face their first summer fighting season without full NATO support. Today's bombings are the first major attacks after Mullah Akhtar Mansour was named as the new Taliban chief last week, in an acrimonious power transition after the insurgents confirmed the death of longtime leader Mullah Omar.
Observers say the escalating violence demonstrates Mullah Mansour's attempt to boost his image among Taliban cadres and drive attention away from internal divisions over his leadership. A truck packed with explosives detonated just after midnight near an army base in the neighbourhood of Shah Shaheed, rattling homes across the city, ripping off the facades of buildings and leaving scattered piles of rubble.
The force of the explosion created an enormous crater in the road, around 10 metres deep, and destroyed the boundary wall of the base, although no military casualties were reported. "The death toll from the early Friday attack... has risen to 15," deputy presidential spokesman Sayed Zafar Hashemi told AFP, adding that "240 people have been wounded -- including women and children".
The health ministry said the number of wounded could run even higher, with most suffering injuries from flying glass. Kabul Police Chief General Abdul Rahman Rahimi said officials were searching for anyone trapped under the mangled concrete debris.