© Agence France-Presse/Getty Images/Massoud Hossaini
Afghanistan investigators inspect the site of a suicide attack in Kabul on September 18, 2012. NATO’s International Security Assistance Force said a bomber struck on the main highway leading to the airport and that there were no military casualties.
A suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden vehicle into a minivan near the airport in Afghanistan's capital Kabul today, killing nine foreign civilians and three Afghans, according to police.
The Hizb-e-Islami, a militant group led by warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and allied to the Taliban, carried out the attack in retaliation for an anti-Islam video that has triggered deadly protests across the Muslim world, Zubair Siddiqi, a spokesman for Hizb-e-Islami, said by phone. He said the bombing was carried out by a 22-year-old woman named Fatema.
General Mohammad Zahir, the head of Kabul police's crime investigation department, confirmed in a phone interview that foreigners had been the target of the attack. Those who died worked at the international airport, Associated Press reported, citing Zahir. Ayub Salangi, Kabul's police chief, said the dead may include citizens of South Africa, France and Russia.
Militants have threatened to step up their attacks in Afghanistan after the movie that ridicules the Prophet Muhammad was posted to the Internet. Hizb-e-Islami's fighters are mainly based in Afghanistan's northeast. Its chief, Hekmatyar, is a former Afghan prime minister and Mujahideen leader during the country's civil wars of the 1990s when he helped end the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan with support from Pakistan.
Violent protests over the American-made film have roiled parts of Kabul over the last few days, mirroring demonstrations and attacks on U.S. and European-linked targets across the Muslim world. U.S. ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three colleagues were killed in an attack in Benghazi last week, while Muslim protesters in Tunis and elsewhere were killed in clashes with government security forces.
The protests are fueling anger in Afghanistan at a time when a security transition from exiting U.S.-led forces to Afghanistan's army and police, is already being hindered by a surge in so-called insider attacks.
In the latest strike, four U.S. soldiers who went to help Afghans during a battle with militants at a remote checkpoint were killed on Sept. 16, apparently by Afghan police, according to the Associated Press, the third attack by Afghan forces or militants dressed in security uniforms in three days.
At least eight Afghan women were killed at the weekend by a NATO airstrike as they gathered firewood in the mountains of eastern Laghman province, NATO and government officials said, prompting a condemnation from Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
NATO's International Security Assistance Force said the bomber had struck on the main highway leading to the airport and that there were no military casualties. The force of the explosion threw the bodies of those killed onto the road surrounding the crash site, Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Siddiqui said in a phone interview.