KABUL, Afghanistan The chief of Afghanistan’s intelligence agency was wounded Thursday afternoon in a suicide bomb attack at a spy agency guest house here in the capital, government officials said.
Doctors at a National Directorate of Security hospital in Kabul said Thursday night that agency’s director Asadullah Khalid was in stable condition. Officials earlier had reported that Khalid suffered wounds to his chest and midsection.
In a statement, the office of Afghan President Hamid Karzai said the president had visited Khalid, who would soon be moved to another facility for further treatment.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the bombing, saying in a statement that a suicide “martyr” detonated an explosive vest “that killed and wounded numerous people, including the spy chief Asadullah Khalid.”
The statement claimed that Khalid was in a coma, but the group routinely makes unsubstantiated claims.
The attacker was the first to injure a senior government official in the capital since September 2011, when a Taliban suicide bomber with explosives hidden in his turban killed former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani and four other members of the government-backed High Peace Council seeking negotiations with the Taliban.
Witnesses in the Taimany neighborhood of Kabul said they saw three wounded men carried away from the spy agency’s fortified guest house shortly after hearing an explosion. Rustam Ali, 21, who said he lives near the guest house, said two national directorate pickup trucks and an ambulance took the men away.
The fact that someone with an explosive device could get close enough to the country’s top intelligence official without being detected raises serious questions about the competence of Khalid’s personal security detail. It also stoked security fears in the capital, where two suicide bombers last month penetrated the heavily guarded governmental and international complex downtown, killing two Afghan security guards.
Khalid, who is said to have close ties to the Central Intelligence Agency, was appointed Afghanistan’s spy chief Sept 15. A Pashtun who is fiercely opposed to the Taliban, Khalid is a former governor of Kandahar province, the spiritual home of the Taliban.