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Kabul Car Bomb Explosion Kills At Least 80, Wounds Hundreds


A powerful bomb in Afghanistan's capital, Kabul, has left a scene of death and destruction in the city. More than 80 people were killed, and that number is expected to go up. Hundreds more were injured, including 11 U.S. citizens working as contractors. The bomb was hidden in a truck, a sewage tanker. It went off during the morning rush hour. The Taliban has so far denied responsibility, and no other group has stepped forward. Reuters Afghanistan correspondent Josh Smith is in Kabul, and he felt the explosion.

JOSH SMITH, BYLINE: I was not particularly close to it, but even at a distance, we could feel everything around us shake and rattle. And almost immediately we could see a huge plume of black and gray smoke and dust rising over the city. As I made my way closer to it - our bureau here is actually just several blocks away from where the blast happened, and it shattered almost all of our windows, blew most of the doors off their hinges. And so it was definitely a very powerful blast.

SIEGEL: At a time when presumably there would be a lot of cars out on the road in Kabul's rush hour in the morning.

SMITH: That's correct. It happened along a road that is often very congested, full of people going to and from work and other areas. And it's an area that is actually something of a funnel for many roads coming together. And so at that time of day, it would have been just packed with vehicles and people.

SIEGEL: Is this something that struck people who live in Kabul as utterly unusual, or is it the sort of thing that people expect? Obviously it was a terrible explosion, but was it a terribly surprising attack?

SMITH: Unfortunately attacks are all too common in Kabul. This was an unusually large one and caused an unusually large number of casualties. In fact it could become one of the largest Kabul has ever seen. This, however, is something that Afghans have come to live with on almost a daily basis, which is of course one of the things that has triggered in recent years flows of refugees from Afghanistan seeking a better life and safer life in places like Europe.

SIEGEL: One reaction from afar to this news in Kabul today is that after all these years, the Afghan capital is still vulnerable to this kind of attack. Has the whole plan to build up Afghan forces and increase security for Afghanistan - has it succeeded at all, or are we back where we were 10, 15 years ago?

SMITH: That is the big question that people are trying to ask here. All this talk of sending a few more thousand foreign troops here smacks a lot of President Obama's decision to send American troops back during the surge. And so there are a lot of hard questions here over what exactly can be done.

No matter how good the Afghan security forces are, as long as there are repeated attempts to carry out such attacks, it is unlikely that they will ever be able to stop them 100 percent. And so I think most people agree that the only way these attacks will finally be ended is if some kind of deal is eventually reached with these militant groups which stops them attempting these attacks in the first place.

SIEGEL: That's Reuters correspondent Josh Smith in Kabul, Afghanistan. Thanks.

SMITH: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.