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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bomb Blast Kills 35 in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan -- An enormous bomb ripped through a police academy bus at Kabul's busiest transportation hub Sunday, killing at least 35 people in the deadliest insurgent attack in Afghanistan since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001. The Taliban claimed responsibility.

The thunderous explosion -- which sheared the metal sidings and roof off the bus, leaving only a charred skeleton -- represented a massive leap in scale from previous Taliban or al-Qaida bombings here, raising the specter of an increase in Iraq-style attacks in Afghanistan.

At least 35 people were killed, including 22 police officers, said Ahmed Zia Aftali, head of Kabul's military hospital. At least 35 others were wounded, hospital officials said. A victim said the bus had been filled with police instructors.

A purported Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousef Ahmadi, said a Taliban suicide bomber named Mullah Asim Abdul Rahman caused the blast. Rahman, 23, was from Kabul province, said Ahmadi, who called an Associated Press reporter by satellite phone from an undisclosed location. His claim could not be verified.

If confirmed, it would be the fifth suicide attack in Afghanistan in three days.

Unidentifiable body parts littered the blast site as far as 30 meters from the bus. Hundreds of police and investigators inspected the scene, with some pulling bodies from the wreckage, and ordered civilians to leave the area -- an outdoor bus station normally teeming with people.

At a nearby hospital, a large blue plastic trash can overflowed with the bloodied shoes and sandals of victims.

"Never in my life have I heard such a sound," said Ali Jawad, 48, who had been selling phone cards nearby. "A big fireball followed. I saw blood and a decapitated man thrown out of the bus. Wounded people were shouting, 'Help me, help me,' and women and children were shouting and running in different directions."

At least one person on the bus survived the attack. Nasir Ahmad, 22, who was sitting in the back of the bus when the blast occurred, said the vehicle had been filled with police instructors.

Despite the Taliban claim, officials were trying to determine if the explosion, which went off in the front of the bus, was caused by a suicide attacker or a bomb that had been planted.

Afghan government officials, police and army soldiers are commonly targeted by insurgents trying to bring down the U.S.-backed government of President Hamid Karzai.

Buses carrying Afghan police and army soldiers have been targeted before.

In May, a remote-control bomb hit an Afghan army bus in Kabul, killing the driver and wounding 29 people. In October, a bomb placed on a bicycle exploded as a police bus went by in Kabul, wounding 11. Last July, a remote-controlled bomb blew up near an Afghan army bus in downtown Kabul, wounding 39 people on board.

At least 307 Afghan police, army or intelligence personnel have been killed in violence so far this year through June 15, according to a tally of figures from U.S., United Nations, NATO and Afghan authorities.

Sunday's attack was the deadliest by insurgents since the fall of the Taliban. In September 2002, 30 people were killed and 167 wounded in a Kabul car bombing.

A health worker at Jamhuriat hospital, said two Pakistani, two Japanese and one Korean national were among those wounded Sunday.