Newspaper article International New York Times

Kabul Attack Offers a Grim Test to a Tiny Ambulance Crew

Newspaper article International New York Times

Kabul Attack Offers a Grim Test to a Tiny Ambulance Crew

Article excerpt

Mechanics became drivers and clerks nurses as a small department sprang into action after the deadliest attack on the Afghan capital in 15 years.

Seven minutes after a truck bomb went off in the Afghan capital on Tuesday, the first teams from Kabul Ambulance Service reached the scene of devastation.

Right away, they knew the attack was bad, but not that it would turn out to be the deadliest in the Afghan capital in 15 years of war.

The teams radioed in the extent of the carnage, activating the small department's contingency plan: All of its 15 vehicles and staff from across the city were dispatched to the bomb scene, behind the compound of an elite security force along the Kabul River.

Mechanics got behind the wheel, and clerks took on nursing duties, ferrying the wounded to the city's hospitals for hours.

"The doors of two ambulances came off the hinges because they were packed with too many wounded," said Dr. Alem Asem, the ambulance service's director.

On Wednesday, the Afghan government confirmed that the death toll was double what was initially reported. Sediq Sediqqi, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said that 64 people had been killed and 347 were wounded.

The Afghan intelligence agency blamed the Haqqani network, a lethal arm of the Taliban behind some of the most complex urban attacks, for the bombing.

But questions have been raised about how the insurgents managed to take large amounts of explosives into the city, detonating a bomb behind the walls of an elite force that is supposed to protect the government's top officials.

On Wednesday, the police had cordoned off the site of the bombing, which destroyed a large parking lot and the windows of Kabul's largest mosque, as well as homes and shops. Not even military personnel were allowed through.

The assault has put more pressure on the dysfunctional coalition government, brokered by the United States after the 2014 election ended in a stalemate. Infighting between two former rivals, President Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, the chief executive, has created stagnation on almost every front.

Even as insurgents have increased their attacks, the government still doesn't have a confirmed intelligence chief and minister of defense, because Mr. …

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