Thirty people were killed and 30 wounded in a suicide attack by a man wearing an Afghan army uniform who set off a huge explosion early Saturday while trying to board a military bus in the capital. Taliban announced itself responsible.
The blast ripped off the roof of the bus and tore out its sides, leaving a charred hull of burnt metal. The bombing mirrored the country's deadliest ever suicide attack just a few months earlier, when a bomber boarded a police bus in June and killed 35.
Dozens of civilians and police officers picked through the site in search of bodies Saturday.
"For 10 or 15 seconds, it was like an atom bomb - fire, smoke and dust everywhere," said Mohammad Azim, a police officer who witnessed the explosion.
President Hamid Karzai said 30 people were killed - 28 soldiers and two civilians. The Health Ministry said another 30 were wounded.
"It was a terrible tragedy, no doubt an act of extreme cowardice," Karzai said. "Whoever did this was against people, against humanity, definitely against Islam. A man who calls himself Muslim will not blow up innocent people in the middle of Ramadan," the Islamic holy month.
A purported Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, claimed the militant group was responsible for the blast in a text message to The Associated Press. Mujahid said the bomber was a Kabul resident named Azizullah.
The bus had stopped in front of a movie theater to pick up soldiers when a bomber wearing a military uniform tried to board around 6:45 a.m. (0215 GMT), army spokesman Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi said.
"Typically there are people checking the IDs of soldiers who want to board the bus," Azimi said. "While they were checking the IDs the bomber tried to get on the bus and blew himself up there."
Kabul's police chief, Gen. Mohammad Aslam Hasas, said Afghan forces shouldn't let strangers get close to them at bus stops.
"They know who should be on the bus," Hasas said. "Whenever they see a stranger's face, they should prevent them from getting close. Later we (officials) will discuss these issues."
The theater, a restaurant and a pharmacy were among several shops that were badly damaged. Body parts were scattered in all directions; police and soldiers climbed trees to retrieve some.
A woman who lives nearby was woken up by the explosion, which shattered her bedroom window, cutting her feet. The blast's force sprayed a chunk of scalp onto a nearby rooftop.
Sulahdin, an army officer at the scene who goes by one name, said about 50 people were on the bus. Adbul Karim, a witness, said several people in the back of the vehicle survived.
Taliban attacks typically target international and Afghan military and police, though civilians are often killed or wounded as well. The Taliban have launched more than 100 suicide attacks this year, a record pace.
The attack mirrored a similar suicide bombing in June, when a bomber boarded a police academy bus at Kabul's busiest transportation hub, killing 35 people - the deadliest insurgent attack in Afghanistan since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.
More than 4,500 people have been killed in insurgency-related violence this year, according to an Associated Press count based on figures from Western and Afghan officials.