Each explosion fuels the paranoia

Yesterday's suicide bombing outside the Indian Embassy in Kabul was, in some ways, sadly inevitable.

People flee the scene of the suicide attack on the Indian Embassy in Kabul yesterday.
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KABUL // They usually happen during morning rush hour, when the roads are busy and the death toll will be highest. So, yesterday's suicide bombing outside the Indian Embassy in Kabul was, in some ways, sadly inevitable. If a city can ever get used to experiencing tragedies, then this one has. But watching the chaotic scenes that unfolded in the aftermath of the explosion, it was impossible not to wonder if the worst is yet to come.

A man walked dazed along the pavement, blood dripping from his head as smoke still filled the sky. Shattered glass was everywhere and a policeman stood in the middle of it all with a rocket-propelled grenade launcher on his shoulder. The only sounds were shouting and sirens. Elsewhere, someone was crying and gesticulating wildly, trying to break through a hastily erected cordon and reach the exact point of the bombing. A white pickup truck had blood smeared across its sides.

Kabul has suffered so much in the past three decades, but for a while, for a few a short summers, it was like the past had been laid to rest. As recently as 2005, the city felt safe. Government buildings were badly protected, there were hardly any concrete barriers in the streets. US soldiers used to eat in local restaurants and buy overpriced carpets in the surrounding shops. Afghans worried about poverty and corruption back then, not about getting killed or kidnapped.

But those days are gone, lost to the fog of fear that now hangs over the city as the number of suicide bombings and attacks rise. Exactly why the embassy was targeted is not clear at this point. And maybe it does not matter, because when corpses are lying in the street motives and ideas do not count for much. However, both India and Pakistan have a history of interfering in this country, playing it off against each other and not worrying a great deal about the consequences to Afghans.

At least 41 people were believed to have been killed in the attack, including New Delhi's military attaché and a diplomat. Approximately 139 were wounded. Even if al Qa'eda or another insurgent group claims responsibility, they will not bare the brunt of the public's anger and suspicion. Some Afghans will accuse their own government and its western allies of failing to provide security in the capital or of being directly involved.

Others will point the finger squarely at Pakistan. These conspiracies may seem absurd to outsiders, but in a city that knows what it is like to be manipulated, betrayed and torn apart, they are common currency here. Each explosion fuels the paranoia. Kabul is not Baghdad, it is not even Kandahar. At the right time of day it is still possible to forget that this place is central to a regional war being waged by the world's most powerful countries.

But walking around is not wise now, and driving is a lottery. Most people try to avoid the buildings and streets that are prime targets. Although the Indian Embassy was not on that list, the road where the bombing happened was. For those living in Kabul, the question now is: which place will be next? @Email:csands@thenational.ae