5 die in blast near Kabul police offices

KABUL, Afghanistan – A rocket landed in a crowd of civilians near Kabul’s police headquarters Saturday, and a truck full of rockets smuggled into the city under a pile of hay exploded nearby moments later, officials said. At least five people were killed.

The truck contained five 107 mm rockets rigged to explode, said Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi, the Defense Ministry spokesman. He said two of the rockets detonated in the explosion but that three did not. The sound of the blast reverberated through Kabul around 8:20 a.m.

Moments earlier, a rocket was fired — apparently by remote control — toward the police station, but it instead landed in a crowd of civilians, said Najib Nekzad, a press officer for the Ministry of Interior. Nekzad said five civilians died and five people were wounded, including two police.

The attacker smuggled the rocket launcher and rockets into the city by hiding them under a pile of hay, Nekzad said.

Afghanistan has seen a record level of suicide bombings this year, and rockets are sometimes fired into Kabul at night, though most land harmlessly in a patch of dirt. But Saturday’s attack appeared to be the first time insurgents used rockets at such close range in an attack.

Officials said three distinct explosions were heard during the attack.

Nekzad speculated that the first explosion was the rocket that was fired toward the police headquarters. A second explosion appeared to have gone off near the truck, perhaps to lure police officers toward the vehicle. The third explosion — the largest by far — was the sound of the vehicle exploding, Nekzad said.

No attacker’s body was found, Nekzad said, leading police to believe that the attack was detonated remotely.

A police officer at the scene, Mohammad Amin, said he saw the truck before it exploded, and that it was loaded with bags and a large rocket launcher. He said the attack did not appear to be a suicide bombing.

This year has been the deadliest in Afghanistan since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion. More than 6,300 people have been killed in insurgency-related violence, according to an Associated Press tally of figures from Western and Afghan officials.

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