KABUL — Taliban militants claimed credit for a series of bombings that hit central Kabul on Friday, saying they were intended to force the U.S. and its allies to withdraw their militaries from Afghanistan.
At least 16 people were killed in the explosions, which targeted two guesthouses primarily used by foreigners. Among the dead were at least six Indians, an Italian diplomat and a French documentary filmmaker.
The assault was the fifth major attack in Kabul in five months.
"Our aim is those foreigners who have troops in the country: We want to put pressure on them to leave," said Zabiullah Mujahed, a Taliban spokesman.
The Indian casualties raised speculation that Pakistan, India's bitter rival whose intelligence agency has long had ties to the Taliban, might have helped in the attack.
"This is the third time that Indians have been targeted," said Sultan Mohammed Awrang, an Afghan lawmaker. "Everyone knows where they are based and who sent them: Pakistan."
Mujahed denied that Indians had been special targets.
"Our aim is not just Indian," he said. "It was their bad luck that so many of them were in the guesthouse."
The initial car bomb blast happened about 6:40 a.m. local time. It decimated a small guesthouse filled with Indian engineers, doctors and technicians.
At least three militants wearing suicide vests stormed the adjacent Park Residence hotel after the car bomb exploded.
Guests ran to safe rooms and huddled in their rooms as the attackers fanned out through the hotel.
The Italian diplomat was talking on the phone to police when he was killed, said Interior Ministry spokesman Zemari Bashari.
While two suicide bombers blew themselves up inside the hotel, a third holed up in one of the rooms and fought off Afghan police for more than three hours.