Afghanistan is holding a national day of mourning Sunday, the day after insurgents used an explosives-laden ambulance to carry out a deadly attack outside a government building in Kabul.
Officials said Sunday the death toll has risen to 103 people, while 235 were wounded in the assault in the capital. The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Interior Minister Wais Ahmad Barmak, while releasing the latest casualty figures at a news conference in Kabul, said “many policemen” were among the dead. But he gave no figures and said 30 police officers were also among those wounded.
Masoom Stanekzai, the head of the Afghan intelligence agency, told reporters authorities have arrested four people in connection with Saturday’s bombing and an investigation is still ongoing.
He dismissed criticism of his National Directorate of Security, or NDS and other Afghan security institutions for their failure to prevent repeated militant attacks in Kabul and elsewhere in the country.
“We have prevented many such incidents but some of these incidents can slip,” said Stanekzai. He again blamed neighboring Pakistan where he alleged major cities are hosting insurgent basses.
“What I want from the international community is to realize that where are all these bases, the command and control center, from where all these weapons are coming, from where all these explosives are coming. We all know and everybody in this room even knows that what is happening,” asserted the Afghan spy chief.
Pakistan rejects the charges and officials insist Kabul along with U.S.-led forces are scapegoating the country for their "collective failure" to stabilize Afghanistan.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani tweeted that Monday will be a day off in Kabul "to free resources to provide better services" to people affected by Saturday's "inhumane attack on civilians."
I also announce that Monday will be a day off in Kabul, in order to free resources to provide better services to those affected as a result of Saturday’s inhumane attack on civilians.— Ashraf Ghani (@ashrafghani) January 28, 2018
The president also said on Twitter that Tuesday will be a national prayer day with Quran recitation ceremonies throughout the country.
While Ghani said the assault was an attack on civilians, the Taliban has said it was targeting the police force and a counterterrorism unit.
Doctors Without Borders or MSF, criticised the Taliban for using an ambulance to carry out the attack. “Ambulances are meant to save lives, not take them. Using them as a weapon increases the risk for patients and ambulance crews in the future Afghanistan,” MSF said on its Twitter account.
As some Afghans Sunday are going to funerals and scouring hospitals for loved ones, others are expressing their anger and frustration about the attacks in Kabul.
"Shall we stay home or go to work, shall we meet our friends and cry or shall we force ourselves to create an illusion of hope? How are your starting your day in Kabul?," tweeted Freshta Karim.
"In Kabul starting a day without explosion, it would be a surprise," tweeted Naser Danesh. "One could only imagine that kind of a day."
The United Nations Security Council, in a statement, “condemned in the strongest terms the heinous and cowardly terrorist attack.”
The council members said the “perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of these reprehensible acts of terrorism” must be held accountable and brought to justice. The members added that “any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of their motivation, wherever, whenever and by whomsoever committed.”
The White House also released a statement Saturday condemning the attack.
“This murderous attack renews our resolve and that of our Afghan partners. The Taliban’s cruelty will not prevail. The United States is committed to a secure Afghanistan that is free from terrorists who would target Americans, our allies, and anyone who does not share their wicked ideology,” the statement said.
The U.S. State Department also released a statement, saying, “The Taliban’s use of an ambulance as a weapon to target civilians represents inhumane disregard for the people of Afghanistan and all those working to bring peace to the country, and is a violation of the most basic international norms. We commend all the emergency services personnel for their courageous actions in responding to this terrorist attack.”