Wave of Suicide Bombings Hits Kabul

Afghans gather at the site of a car bomb attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, Friday, Aug. 7, 2015. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)
Afghans gather at the site of a car bomb attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, Friday, Aug. 7, 2015. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

Massive suicide bombings in Kabul killed at least 40 and wounded more than 100 Friday in attacks that the Afghan government called a Taliban effort to show resilience following the death of leader Mullah Omar.

In one attack, at least one and possibly as many as four insurgents detonated suicide vests outside a police academy in the Afghan capital and killed at least 25, according to first accounts.

In an earlier attack, a massive truck bomb went off in downtown Kabul, killing at least 15 and leaving a crater 30 feet deep.

There were no immediate claims of responsibility for Friday's bombings, which came a day after a suicide truck bombing south of Kabul that killed at least six.

However, Sayed Zafar Hashimi, a spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, called the incidents "cowardly terrorist attacks against civilians aimed at diverting attention from the tensions brewing between the leadership of the Taliban," the New York Times reported.

The suicide attacks Thursday and Friday were the first since the Taliban acknowledged last week that long-time leader Mullah Omar was dead. Afghan officials said it was believed that Omar died in a Pakistani hospital in April 2013.

Taliban spokesmen said last week that Omar's deputy, Mullah Akhtar Mansour, had been chosen to succeed him but Omar's relatives have disputed the succession.

The Taliban movement also has been shaken by thus far unconfirmed reports that Jalaluddin Haqqani, founder of the Haqqani network that is considered the most violent faction allied to the Taliban, also was dead.

The reports said that Haqqani, believed to be in his mid-70s, died in December after a long illness.

The death of Omar, the possible death of Haqqani, and the spike in violence in Afghanistan came as Army Gen. John Campbell, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, was in Washington this week for consultations.

Campbell said he would make a recommendation this fall to President Obama on whether to keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan past a withdrawal deadline previously announced by Obama for the end of 2016.

At a Brookings Institute conference earlier this week, Campbell said Omar's death could be an "opportunity" to convince Taliban fighters to put down their weapons and resume suspended peace talks with the Afghan government.

At the U.S. Institute of Peace on Thursday, Dan Feldman, who will retire next week as the special UI.S. envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, also said that Omar's death presented an "important opportunity" for peace while cautioning that "there can be no long term stability in Afghanistan without Pakistan's support."

Omar's death also presented a political problem for Pakistan, which has long denied his presence in Quetta and Peshawar.

On Friday, Pakistani Defense Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif told the National assembly that reports of Omar's death in Quetta or in a hospital in Karachi were untrue.

"We totally deny that Mullah Omar died in Quetta or Karachi," Asif said. He said that Omar died in Afghanistan and was buried there.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at richard.sisk@military.com

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Afghanistan Taliban