THE explosion was the loudest thing I’ve ever heard in my life. It blew out two large windows in the entrance to my bedroom, sending shattered glass all over the carpet, and left me momentarily in a state of complete shock. I just sat stunned and then, realizing what had happened, raced to put on my shoes and grab my camera.
Other windows all over the Kabul Lodge were also blown out, but fortunately nobody in the hotel was wounded. The few foreign guests here were wandering about also, looking very rattled and scared.
I went outside the front gate, and the rutted, heavily-guarded dirt lane that runs for about 150 meters between two major roads was consumed in dust from the explosion. I could see down on the left that the bomb had exploded somewhere in that direction. Three wounded civilians, stunned and bleeding, were heading away from the area in search of medical aid.
The road, called Passport Lane because the passport office is the middle, has five metal barriers on it, all guarded by Afghan police, which must be lifted to allow cars to pass. There are also about 15 huge cement blocks that force vehicles to zig-zag their way slowly up and down the lane.
Thirty meters from the Kabul Lodge a policeman at a barrier, a guy I wave to several times a day when he lets my taxi pass by, refused to let me go any further. I tried to tell him I was a journalist and to let me through, but when he cocked his AK-47 and aimed it at me screaming, I knew that was it.
Police were already on the scene, and ambulances followed. Other press showed up, and details emerged. A suicide bomber had tried to pass through the barrier at the entrance to the lane and then blew himself up. A whole series of two-story photocopy shops had been destroyed. Early reports indicated at least 13 people had been killed and about 84 wounded – probably all people I had seen daily, as I used the copy shops regularly.
After about an hour the cops finally let us through. A meter-deep hole was visible where the bomb had gone off. Many of the shops had their back walls blown through, leaving only ruined shells and scattered debris.
The Indian embassy sits across from the shops, and its anti-blast walls were damaged. Giant cement T-walls had been blown back, but an embassy official said nobody inside had been injured. The embassy was the target of a suicide bomber who killed more than 80 people over a year ago.
A reporter showed me two human teeth and a bit of jaw he found, all charred black. Another policeman was combing through the wreckage, picking up pieces of human remains and putting them in a bag. The twisted steel of several destroyed cars was strewn all over.
It’s unclear what the suicide bomber’s target was. No Indians were hurt, and the ministry of interior, which is further down the main road, was also unscathed. Apparently one policeman was killed, but the rest of the victims were innocent Afghans just trying to get by.
What a mess.