KABUL, Afghanistan – A man wearing a black overcoat and carrying an umbrella as a shelter against the heavy snow crossed a street in the Afghan capital early Wednesday morning toward an idling bus filled with Afghan soldiers, where he laid down and wiggled underneath. Then he exploded, engulfing the undercarriage of the bus in flames.
The suicide bomber killed himself and wounded at least seven people — six soldiers and one civilian, the Kabul police chief's office said. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack in a text message to The Associated Press.
Though no deaths were reported, the attack — the second attempted strike in the capital this week — was a reminder of the Taliban insurgency's ability to hit the Afghan government even with about 100,000 international troops helping secure the country.
The Afghan government uses buses to ferry soldiers, police and office workers into the center of the city for work every day. These vehicles, which run regular routes, have been a common target for insurgents.
A handful of soldiers were about to board the bus when the attacker slid underneath and detonated his vest, said Ahmad Shakib, who saw the attack unfold as he waited across the street.
Shakib said the attacker did not rush but moved purposefully across the snowy street. Shakib thought when the man started to push himself under the bus that maybe he was a driver's assistant trying to fix something.
"I thought to myself, 'What is this crazy man doing?' And then there was a blast and flames,'" Shakib said.
"It was a very loud explosion. I still cannot really hear," he added.
The owner of a bakery nearby said that six people who were waiting outside his shop to buy bread were also wounded. The windows of Mirza Khan's bakery also shattered.
The attack comes three days after a would-be car bomber was shot dead by police in downtown Kabul. That assailant was driving a vehicle packed with explosives and officials said he appeared to be targeting an intelligence agency office nearby.
Associated Press writer Heidi Vogt contributed to this report from Kabul.