- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 16, 2009

KABUL, Afghanistan | A suicide car bomber struck Tuesday near the home of a former Afghan vice president and a hotel frequented by Westerners, killing at least eight people and wounding nearly 40 in a neighborhood considered one of Kabul’s safest.

The blast was the deadliest in the heart of the city since an Oct. 28 assault on a guesthouse filled with U.N. staffers killed eight people, including five U.N. workers.

Tuesday’s attack occurred at midmorning in Kabul’s heavily guarded Wazir Akbar Khan district, an area favored by foreigners and wealthy Afghans.

Security officials at the scene suspected the target was the home of former Vice President Ahmad Zia Masood - brother of legendary anti-Taliban fighter Ahmad Shah Masood, who was killed in an al Qaeda suicide bombing two days before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

“Of course we were the target,” said Shah Asmat, an aide to the former vice president. “Before, the Taliban killed Masood. Now, they tried to kill his brother.”

Mr. Masood, who served in President Hamid Karzai’s first administration that expired last month, was home but he was not injured.

The explosion was heard several miles away at the Foreign Ministry, where about 200 officials and diplomats were meeting to discuss corruption in the Afghan government.

During a speech at the gathering, Mr. Karzai said two of Mr. Masood’s guards were among the dead.

Four men and four women were killed and nearly 40 people were wounded, Ministry of Interior spokesman Zemeri Bashary said. Former Kabul police chief Salim Asas, who lives in a house near the explosion, was wounded along with a family member and another relative was killed, said Abdul Ghafor Sayedzada, chief of criminal investigation for the Kabul police.

The attack slightly damaged the Heetal Hotel, which is owned by the son of Burhanuddin Rabbani, who served as president of Afghanistan from 1992 to 1996. Three homes, including the former vice president’s, were severely damaged and windows in nearby buildings were shattered.

In other violence Tuesday, two Afghan army soldiers were killed in Helmand province when a suicide bomber on a motorbike attacked a joint vehicle patrol of Afghan and international forces, said Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defense. Two Afghan soldiers were wounded in the attack.

NATO said a U.S. service member was killed in a bombing in southern Afghanistan on Tuesday, but it did not provide details.

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