(CNSNews.com) – Afghanistan’s intelligence chief on Sunday blamed neighboring Pakistan for a deadly suicide attack in which terrorists detonated explosives packed into an ambulance on a busy Kabul thoroughfare during lunch hour on Saturday.
The Afghan government and people have realized, the Tolo news agency quoted National Directorate of Security (NDS) chief Masoom Stanekzai as saying, that the conflict is not an internal one but an “imposed war.”
Stanekzai told a press conference that Afghans face a coordinated, ideological war in which suicide bombers are trained in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province, and Pakistani clerics denounce violence at home but legitimize it in Afghanistan.
“The war in Afghanistan is not rooted in the country. People need to have a complete understanding of Afghanistan’s security landscape. [The] Afghan government and people have realized that this is an imposed war, it is not an internal issue.”
Stanekzai, a former defense minister, pointed to the seizure of 4,000 tons of explosives over the past month – explosives which he said Afghanistan does not have the capacity to produce.
“Madrassas [Islamic religious schools], training camps, and safe havens exist beyond Afghanistan’s borders,” he said.
At least 103 people, many of them civilians, were killed in the blast which occurred near an interior ministry building and foreign embassies, and more than 230 more were injured. Officials said the ambulance had been ushered past one security checkpoint but was stopped at a second one when the bomb was detonated.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called terrorists’ use of the ambulance to carry out the attack “a violation of the most basic international norms” and a display of “inhumane disregard for the people of Afghanistan and all those working to bring peace to the country.”
“All countries who support peace in Afghanistan have an obligation to take decisive action to stop the Taliban's campaign of violence,” Tillerson said. “There can be no tolerance for those who support or offer sanctuary to terrorist groups.”
He did not elaborate, but President Trump has accused Pakistan of colluding with terrorists despite receiving billions of dollars in U.S. aid.
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley confirmed this month the administration will withhold $255 million in aid to Islamabad and that the president is willing to “go to great lengths to stop all funding from Pakistan as they continue to harbor and support terrorism.”
‘Slavery to U.S. terrorists’
The Taliban claimed responsibility for Saturday’s “martyr operation,” which it says was carried out by “a brave mujahid” from Kandahar province named Salahuddin.
The terrorist group said the bomber had driven his explosive-laden “vehicle” into an area that had been under observation for a week, with the time and place chosen to take advantage of the lunch time crowd of interior ministry staff and military personnel.
It said the attack aimed to send “a message to [the] slave regime that its slavery to U.S. terrorists and their allies will get them nowhere and their fate will be decided by the nation. If they choose to remain in servitude to the U.S. aggressors they will be destined to face the same fate and justice will certainly be done.”
The ambulance bombing came days after two other deadly attacks in Afghanistan – one targeting an office of the aid agency Save the Children in Jalalabad east of Kabul, in which six people were killed; and the other the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul, a siege attack that cost the lives of 43 people, including four Americans.
The earlier attacks were blamed respectively on the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS/ISIL) and the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani Network.
Addressing the same press conference as Stanekzai, Interior Minister Wais Ahmad Barmak defended those manning the first police checkpoint for letting the ambulance to pass, saying the driver had told them he was taking a patient to a nearby hospital.
Policemen who survived the blast reported seeing at least one “patient” in the ambulance.
The use of an ambulance or any vehicle bearing medical markings to carry out an armed attack amounts to a war crime – as does an attack on an ambulance or other such vehicle, according to human rights groups.
The 1977 additional protocols of the Geneva Conventions protect ambulances and medical vehicles, as does the Rome Statute, the founding treaty of the International Criminal Court.
Using ambulances for military purposes can cause difficulties and pose dangers for legitimate medical personnel, raising doubts about their neutrality and preventing them from carrying out their crucial work efficiently.
Tadamichi Yamamoto, head of the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, said he was “disturbed by credible reports that the attackers used a vehicle painted to look like an ambulance, including bearing the distinctive medical emblem, in clear violation of international humanitarian law.”
“Today’s attack is nothing short of an atrocity, and those who have organized and enabled it must be brought to justice and held to account.”
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani blamed the three attacks on “enemies of humanity and Islam” and declared Sunday a day of national mourning. U.S. Ambassador John Bass condemned the “senseless and cowardly bombing in Kabul and those who perpetrated it.”
For its part Pakistan said it condemned the attack.
“Pakistan reiterates its strong condemnation of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations,” the foreign ministry said in a statement. “No cause or ends justify acts of terrorism against innocent people.”