Businessmen hit by bombing blame president

Afghan businessmen at a Kabul market blame their president for the bomb blast at the Indian Embassy

President Karzai, who traders have blamed for the market attack.
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KABUL // Amid broken glass and blood stains, market traders working opposite the Indian Embassy in Kabul had only one request: tell the world the truth about who was responsible for the carnage caused by Monday's suicide bombing. "I blame the president, the ministry of interior and the ministry of defence," said Gada Mohammad Amiri, a shopkeeper. "Why can't they bring peace?"

Forty-one people were reported killed and about 140 injured in the attack, the worst of its kind since the Taliban regime was overthrown in late 2001. The Afghan government has insinuated that Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was involved, but for those affected, this is only half the story. Directly opposite the embassy, on the other side of the road, is a small market set up by the Chamber of Commerce. It is a wreck now. Shattered glass lies everywhere, the roofs of parked cars are crumpled inwards and the local mosque looks like it has been hit by a storm.

However, none of the traders interviewed by The National were angry with the suicide bomber himself. Instead, they all said the blame lies elsewhere. "Shopkeepers who work here are checked by the police whenever they come into the market, but why don't they check the people responsible for the suicide attacks? This is all because of [president] Hamid Karzai," said Mr Amiri, who reminisced about the good life he had during the Soviet occupation.

The Indian Embassy lies on the same road as Afghanistan's ministry of interior in central Kabul. Police usually guard each end of the street, sometimes pulling over drivers and refusing to let them through. Cars are often prevented from parking in or near the market. The suicide bomber must have passed at least one checkpoint. He is also suspected of acting on intelligence information because the blast happened just as two diplomatic vehicles were entering the embassy compound.

"Maybe the people working in high positions in the ministries were involved in this attack. How did the suicide bomber know the convoy would be coming at that time?" said Fraydoon Ghous. Mr Ghous is a tailor in the market, giving much needed employment to widows who help sew the women's dresses he sells. The 41-year-old fears it will now be impossible for him to relaunch his business. Mr Ghous let his mind wander to the days when Kabul was full of hope following the Taliban's removal from power. Mr Karzai had personally opened the market, promising it would be able to compete with the best in Asia, he said.

"Now you can find a lot of people who cannot feed themselves, so there is no other way for them but to do suicide attacks," he said. India has enjoyed good relations with the current Afghan government, using its friendship to build up strategic depth against Pakistan. This led to the accusations that the ISI was involved in the bombing. Humayun Hamidzada, Mr Karzai's spokesman, told reporters: "We believe firmly that there is a particular intelligence agency behind it. I'm not going to name it anymore, I think it's pretty obvious."

However, Pakistan has denied involvement, with the country's prime minister having said "a stable Afghanistan" was in his government's interests. Yet there is deep suspicion and even hatred among many Afghans towards Islamabad. Much of it dates to a historic border dispute and, more recently, their neighbour's backing of the Taliban regime. Jan Agha pointed out a shop in front of the market. The explosion tore the store apart, leaving the dead and injured buried inside. Blood and dust were still splattered across a computer and a picture of Shahrukh Khan, the Bollywood actor, lay on the floor.

Asked who was responsible, Mr Agha said: "It was Pakistan."