A Taliban suicide bomber blew up a police bus in the heart of the Afghan capital on Sunday, killing more than 20 people in the single deadliest bombing to hit Afghanistan since the Taliban were ousted in 2001.
The blast tore apart the bus, wounding dozens of bystanders, wrecking several other vehicles and scattering body parts.
Kabul's police criminal branch chief, Ali Shah Paktiawal, said some 35 people were killed, including many police officers.
President Hamid Karzai condemned the attack, calling it an attempt to block the training of Afghanistan's Western-led police force, the palace said. It put the death toll at 22 people.
Kabul's police chief, Esmatullah Dawlatzai, said 24 people had been killed and 52 wounded.
The Interior Ministry said five of the wounded were foreigners, including two Japanese, a Korean and two Pakistanis. Earlier reports that foreigners had been killed proved false.
The attack is the deadliest suicide raid in Kabul since US-led forces drove the Taliban from power, and appears to signal an escalation of such strikes.
At least 14 people were killed in four other suicide bombings over the past three days. Responsibility for all five attacks was claimed by Taliban insurgents who want to overthrow Afghanistan's Western-backed government and drive out foreign troops.
The previous deadliest bombing in Kabul, in 2002, killed 26 people.
A police eyewitness at the scene, outside the Kabul police chief's headquarters, said he had seen the bomber leap on to the bus as it was moving slowly away, its door wide open.
"It was a very, very successful suicide attack," a Taliban commander, Mullah Hayatullah Khan, said. "We have plans for more successful attacks in future."
The Taliban and their Al-Qaida allies have adopted the tactics of Iraq's bloody insurgency to try to dispel the notion that government and foreign security forces are in control of the country.
Eighteen bodies, mostly police officers, and 10 wounded had been taken to nearby Jamhuriat Hospital, a doctor there said.
The bomb exploded during the morning rush hour, at a time when buses are ferrying police officers to their beats.
(China Daily via agencies June 18, 2007)