A suicide bomb rocked the Afghan capital, Kabul, early Saturday, just five days before presidential elections, a defense ministry official told CNN.
At least 55 people were wounded, a hospital source said. “The sound was like a very loud door banging right next to me,” said CNN’s National Security Analyst Peter Bergen. “I saw a large plume of smoke rising after the sound of the blast.” The smoke was billowing in the vicinity of the U.S. Embassy and headquarters of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force. The huge blast occurred at 8:30 a.m. (4 a.m. GMT) despite beefed-up security in Kabul ahead of the August 20 presidential election, only the second since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001. Watch more on Saturday’s explosion » This summer has been the bloodiest in Afghanistan since 2001, but Kabul had experienced relative calm in recent months. The last attack in Kabul was in January when a suicide bomb exploded near the German embassy. The Taliban claimed responsibility for that incident.
Security has been a key concern as Afghans prepare to go to the polls next week — the Taliban has vowed to disrupt the voting. Earlier this week, hundreds of U.S. Marines and Afghan soldiers moved into troubled Helmand province in southern Afghanistan to help provide protection for voters.