By RAHIM FAIEZ
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - A suicide car bomber killed at least 40 people and wounded about 140 more in an attack claimed by the Taliban on Saturday in Afghanistan's capital Kabul, authorities said. The bombing came just a week after Taliban militants killed 22 at an international hotel in the city.
The attacker used an ambulance to get through a security checkpoint, telling police he was taking a patient to a nearby hospital, said Nasrat Rahimi, deputy spokesperson for the Interior Ministry. The attacker then detonated his explosives at a second check point, Rahimi said.
The Health Ministry said 40 were killed and about 140 wounded.
Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, claimed responsibility for the bombing, which sent thick, black smoke into the sky from the site near the government's former Interior Ministry building. Also nearby are the European Union and Indian consulates.
It was the second successful Taliban attack in a week on targets in the city with high security.
Last Saturday, six Taliban militants attacked the Intercontinental Hotel, leaving 22 people dead, including 14 foreigners. Some 150 guests fled the gun battle and fire sparked by the assault by shimmying down bedsheets from the upper floors. The U.S. State Department said multiple American citizens were killed and injured in the attack.
Afghan security forces have struggled to fight the Taliban since the U.S. and NATO formally ended their combat mission in 2014.
President Donald Trump has pursued a plan that involves sending thousands more U.S. troops to Afghanistan and envisions shifting away from a "time-based" approach to one that more explicitly links U.S. assistance to concrete results from the Afghan government. Trump's U.N. envoy, Nikki Haley, said after a recent visit to Afghanistan that Trump's policy was working and that peace talks between the government and the Taliban are closer than ever before.
On Dec. 28 a suicide bomber and other explosions at a Shiite cultural center in Kabul killed at least 41 people in an attack claimed by the Islamic State group that may have been aimed at a pro-Iran news outlet based in the building.
On Wednesday, IS militants stormed the offices of Save the Children in eastern Afghanistan killing four and triggering a standoff with police that lasted almost 10 hours. The Islamic State group was involved in at least 10 fatal attacks in Afghanistan last year.
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