A suicide car bomb targeted a foreign military convoy in Kabul on Thursday, killing at least 16 people including six NATO personnel and two children in the deadliest attack in the Afghan capital for nearly a year.
The powerful explosion, which struck at 8:00 am (0330 GMT) in the Shah Shaheed southeastern district, also injured 37 passers-by including many children going to school, officials said.
In total eight Afghans died, along with two NATO soldiers and four NATO contractors who were travelling through the city’s busy rush hour traffic.
Hezb-i-Islami, an insurgent group that is independent from Taliban militant forces, claimed responsibility for the attack.
"We planned this attack for over a week, our target was American advisers," Hizb-e-Islami spokesman Haroon Zarghoun told Reuters by telephone, adding that the bomb killed 12 Americans. Insurgents often exaggerate death tolls.
Helicopters buzzed over Kabul's diplomatic area after the attack and sirens whined.
"A suicide bomber driving a (Toyota) Corolla targeted a convoy of foreign troops," Kabul Police Chief Ayoub Salangi told Reuters by telephone.
NATO spokesman Lt. Quenton Roehricht said the international alliance can "confirm an explosion occurred on a coalition convoy in Kabul this morning," but provided no further details.
Kabul provincial police spokesman Hashmad Stanakzi said the suicide bomber attacked the convoy with a car packed with explosives. "The explosion was very big. It set the nearby buildings on fire," Stanakzi said.
He said there were people killed and several were wounded. "The casualty numbers are high and mostly civilian."
Kabul Deputy Police Chief Daud Amin said it was difficult to immediately estimate the number of casualties.
"We saw two dead bodies of children on the ground and one woman wounded," Amin said. "But the rest of the bodies were scattered in pieces around."
A spokesman for Hizb-e-Islami, Haroon Zarghoon, told The Associated Press that one of the movement's operatives carried out the attack on what he called two vehicles of American advisers.
Hizb-e-Islami is headed by 65-year-old former warlord Gubuddin Hekmatyar, a former Afghan prime minister and one-time U.S. ally who is now listed as a terrorist by Washington. The militia has thousands of fighters and followers across the country's north and east.