TIME Afghanistan

Suicide Car Bomb Explosion Shakes Afghan Capital Near Shopping District

kabul Afghanistan explosion
Rahmat Gul—AP An Afghan woman cries out at the site of a suicide attack on a NATO convoy in Kabul, June 30, 2015.

At least one person was killed

(KABUL, Afghanistan)—A suicide attacker driving an explosives-packed vehicle targeted a NATO military convoy in the Afghan capital, Kabul, on Tuesday, killing at least one person and wounding up to 22, police, military and government officials said.

“It was a suicide car bomber,” said Kabul deputy police chief Sayed Gulagha. The blast sent a huge plume of black smoke over the city and scattered glass and metal across the main highway to Kabul’s airport.

A spokesman for NATO’s Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan, U.S. Army Col. Brian Tribus, said that no coalition personnel were injured by the blast. The Taliban sent a text message to The Associated Press claiming responsibility for the attack.

At least two of the convoy’s armored vehicles were badly damaged in the explosion, which happened around 1.20 p.m. less than a kilometer (half a mile) from the American Embassy.

Embassy spokeswoman Heather Eaton said all personnel were accounted for.

The spokesman for the Interior Ministry, Sediq Sediqqi, said that at least one person, a civilian, was killed in the attack and at least 22 wounded.

Chief of Kabul hospitals for the Ministry of Public Health, Kabir Amiri, said at least 19 people were wounded, including four children and three women.

Eyewitnesses said it happened during early afternoon prayers, and that people who rushed out of a nearby mosque had attacked the foreign soldiers and journalists, throwing stones at them.

The blast badly damaged at least two of the heavily armored military vehicles in the convoy. The nationality of the coalition soldiers was not immediately clear.

The attack happened as government employees were leaving their offices and roads were choked with vehicles as the working day is shortened during the Ramadan fasting month.

Eyewitness Ahmad Farhad said: “I saw a Toyota Corolla target the convoy of foreign forces, I saw two to three damaged vehicles and wounded victims were everywhere and there was no one to help them.”

It comes a week after an audacious attack on the nation’s parliament, which highlighted the ability of insurgents, who have been fighting to overthrow the Kabul government for almost 14 years, to enter the highly fortified capital to stage deadly attacks.

Also on Tuesday, a suicide attack on the police headquarters of southern Helmand province killed up to three people and wounded more than 50, including policemen, officials said.

Omar Zawak, spokesman for the governor of Helmand province, said most of the injured in the Tuesday morning attack were women and children.

Police spokesman Farid Hamad Obaid said a car packed with explosives was driven into the back wall of the police headquarters in an attempt to breach a gate. All the gunmen fled the area, he said.

Also Tuesday in eastern Paktya province, three people were killed and one wounded when their vehicle hit a roadside mine, the provincial police chief Zalmai Oryakhel said.

TIME Elon Musk

Tesla’s Elon Musk Just Had the Worst Birthday Ever

Tesla Elon Musk
Noah Berger—AP Tesla's CEO Elon Musk.

A disastrous weekend for both Tesla and SpaceX

Elon Musk turned 44 on Sunday, but the entrepreneur probably wished he could just crawl back into bed and forget the day ever happened.

It was, to be frank, a disastrous weekend for both Tesla and SpaceX, the two companies Musk leads.

First, the biggie: an unmanned SpaceX rocket on a resupply mission to the International Space Station exploded after it was launched. No one was hurt, and the astronauts on board the Space Station have enough supplies to last until October, but the Falcon 9 rocket that was destroyed represents a lot of lost capital, and it’s always embarrassing for an aerospace company when a craft just, well, explodes.

In news that was slightly less spectacular, but still troubling, reports say Musk said Tesla owners weren’t using the battery swap technology he debuted in 2013. While this doesn’t have quite the visual impact of an exploding rocket, it’s still not good news for a service that Musk and other Tesla execs hoped would help show consumers that electric cars, like Teslas, can be taken on longer trips with minimal wait time.

Musk himself admitted to having a bad day:

We hope your Independence Day weekend is better, Elon.

TIME weather

This Woman Was Almost Struck by Lightning and Filmed It

Damn nature, you scary

A woman from Ireland got dangerously close to a bolt of lightning earlier this month when out filming a rainstorm for her mother.

Nicola Duffy, a lecturer at the Institute of Technology Blanchardstown in Dublin, was recording the heavy rain when a bolt of lightning appeared to explode on the opposite side of the courtyard, several meters from where she was standing, reports TheJournal.ie.

In the video you see a streak of light and hear a huge bang before Duffy falls to the ground in shock.

Because there was no visible damage done to the building, some at the college believe the lightning strike Duffy filmed was in fact a reflection — but nonetheless still very nearby.

Either way, it’s pretty scary and Duffy’s video has racked up almost 300,000 views on YouTube.


TIME Transportation

Video Captures Bus Exploding on Massachusetts Turnpike

No injuries have been reported

A bus on a Massachusetts highway exploded on Monday with the incident caught on camera.

Though the blast was violent enough to knock out the vehicle’s windows, there have been no reports of injuries, according to ABC News. The bus became engulfed in flames but firefighters eventually managed to get the blaze under control. One lane of eastbound traffic was closed due to the incident but reopened 20 minutes later.

The operating company, BoltBus, tweeted in the aftermath that the passengers were safe.


TIME space travel

Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson Says the Risk of Space Tourism ‘Is Worth It’

And he's confirmed that he will be the first passenger on Virgin Galactic’s maiden flight

Despite the crash of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo during a test flight Friday, killing co-pilot Michael Alsbury, the company’s founder Richard Branson says, “the risk is worth it.”

“Mike would have been the first to say that,” Branson told CNN Monday. “Test pilots would say that because they know the risk they’re taking, they know the importance of what they’re doing, we know the importance of what we’re doing.”

And the British entrepreneur confirmed that he would still be the first passenger on Virgin Galactic’s maiden space tourism flight.

“There is no way I would ask others to go on a Virgin Galactic flight if I didn’t feel it was safe enough for myself,” he said.

A spot on the flight will cost $250,000, and 800 passengers have already signed up to join Branson in becoming the world’s first space tourists. Branson said two more people signed up Friday to support the program after the fatal crash.


TIME stocks

Space Company’s Stock Plummets to Earth After Rocket Explodes During Liftoff

The company whose rocket exploded in a massive fireball about 200 feet in the air Tuesday is taking a beating on the stock market. Shares for Orbital Sciences are down 15% in early morning trading after the company’s unmanned spacecraft, the Antares, malfunctioned just moments into its attempted journey to deliver supplies to the International Space Station. Orbital stock was trading at about $25.50 around noon.

As TIME’s Jeff Kluger points out, the failed launch could be devastating for Orbital, which has been launching spacecraft for decades. The company is competing fiercely with the likes of Elon Musk’s upstart SpaceX to win NASA contracts to deliver supplies to the International Space Station. Orbital is seeking to extend its contract, and this accident won’t help matters.

TIME space

NASA’s Antares Explosion: What it Means

An unmanned Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Antares rocket explodes shortly after takeoff at Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va. on Oct. 28, 2014.
Jay Diem—AP An unmanned Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Antares rocket explodes shortly after takeoff at Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va. on Oct. 28, 2014.

The rocket's fortunately fatality-free failure to launch spells trouble for one of NASA's major contractors

The good news—the very, very good news—is that no one was aboard Orbital Sciences’ Antares booster when it exploded just six seconds after leaving the launch pad on Wallops Island, Va. at 6:30 PM EDT on Oct. 28. It was the fifth launch of the Antares and the fourth that was headed for the International Space Station (ISS) on a resupply mission. The booster made it barely 200 feet off the ground.

The bad news—the very, very bad news—is what this means for Orbital as a continued player in the competition to supply the ISS. It was in 2008 that Orbital (which has a long history in the space biz) and Elon Musk’s SpaceX (which had none at all) won a $3.5 billion NASA contract, with Orbital taking $1.9 billion of that for eight flights. Halfway through the contract, the company was looking to re-up, and this will not reflect well on them at the bargaining table.

Orbital was never a serious part of the even more furious competition to take over the manned portion of NASA’s low Earth orbit portfolio. The winners of that battle, named Sept. 16, were SpaceX again, and Boeing—a venerable part of the NASA family and prime contractor of the ISS. Tonight’s explosion would be a lot more worrisome if one of those two—already gearing up to carry people—had been responsible. But for Orbital, it will be bad enough.

Worse for the company is CEO David Thompson’s admission on Oct. 29 that part of the problem could be the AJ-26 engines used in the deceased booster’s first stage. Originally designed by the Soviet Union (that’s not a typo—we’re talking about Russia long before the fall of communism) the engines were later updated and retrofitted for the Antares booster.

It is too early to say if the AJ-26’s were indeed responsible for the explosion, but old hardware is old hardware and in an era in which the likes of Musk are starting with a blank page when they design their engines, taking outdated stuff off the shelf is not the way to inspire confidence. In 2012, a catty Musk made that point, telling Wired magazine:

One of our competitors, Orbital Sciences, has a contract to resupply the International Space Station, and their rocket honestly sounds like the punch line to a joke. It uses Russian rocket engines that were made in the ’60s. I don’t mean their design is from the ’60s—I mean they start with engines that were literally made in the ’60s and, like, packed away in Siberia somewhere.

Musk being Musk, that’s more than a little hyperbolic, but the snark still stung Orbital. It is an especially bad time for any aerospace company to have to be defending the use of Russian-made engines, ever since spring when U.S. sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Crimea led Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Rogozin to mock America’s dependence on Russia’s Soyuz rockets to reach the International Space Station. “After analyzing the sanctions against our space industry,” Rogozin said, “I suggest to the USA to bring their astronauts to the International Space Station using a trampoline.”

More worrisome was Rogozin’s threat to limit sales to the U.S. the RD-180 engines that are used in America’s workhorse Atlas V rocket. That bit of bluster soured politicians on continuing to do space business with Russia at all and kick-started efforts to develop a domestic alternative to the RD-180. Now comes Orbital with an older, far worse Russian engine that just may have caused an entire rocket and its cargo to go up in flames.

A reputation-saving case the company could plausibly make—though it would be suicide to try—is the “stuff blows up” argument. Space travel is notoriously hard and rockets are notoriously ill-tempered. They are, after all, little more than massive canisters of exploding gasses and liquids, with the weight of the fuel often much greater than the weight of the rocket itself. This is not remotely the first time launch controllers have witnessed such a fiery spectacle on the pad and it won’t be the last. Realistically, there will never be a last.

But Orbital is supposed to be a senior member of the space community, not one of the freshmen like SpaceX or Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic. No exploding rocket is good—especially when contracts are ending and NASA is again looking for free agents. It’s much worse for an outfit that’s been in the game for a while. Final determination of how bad the damage is will await the investigation into the cause of the explosion. But one thing’s certain: you wouldn’t want to be on the company’s Vienna, Va. campus tonight—on what is surely going to be the first of a lot of very long nights to come.

TIME Afghanistan

Suicide Bomber Attacks NATO Convoy in Kabul Killing 3

U.S. troops carry the dead body of a member of an international troop at the site of suicide attack in Kabul
Omar Sobhani — Reuters U.S. troops carry the dead body of a member of an international troop at the site of suicide attack in Kabul September 16, 2014.

Taliban claims responsibility

Updated: Sept. 16, 2014, 2:51 a.m. E.T.

A suicide bomber attacked a military convoy in Kabul Tuesday morning, killing three NATO soldiers and injuring 16 civilians.

The explosion took place around 8 a.m. local time in heavy traffic on the airport road near the Supreme Court, according to the BBC.

Witnesses said a vehicle from the convoy was completely destroyed in the attack, and injured soldiers were seen receiving first aid soon after.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the blast, which took place amid uncertainty and controversy over Afghanistan’s recent presidential elections. The elections have been dogged by allegations of fraud.

The nationalities of the soldiers in the convoy are not yet known, reports said.

TIME photo essay

Inside the Beslan School Siege, 10 Years On

Ten years after the Beslan school siege, photographer Diana Markosian made these remarkable photographs of former hostages at the site where 330 captives were killed, more than half of them children.

They were dressed in their best, little girls in spotless white ruffled pinafores and boys in freshly pressed dress shirts buttoned to the collar. It was September 1, 2004, the start of school, a cause for celebration throughout Russia.

When the first shots were fired, 11-year-old Zarina Albegava mistook them for fireworks. She is 21 now, but still has trouble talking about what happened next.

“I don’t want to remember,” she says.

Albegava, her sister Zalina, nine, and around 1,200 others were taken hostage during a back to school celebration in Beslan, in the Russian republic of North Ossetia. Two days later around 330 of them were dead, more than half of them children. Zalina was one of the dead.

It was the worst terrorist attack Russia had ever seen, a gruesome footnote to the two wars that Chechnya fought for independence in the 1990s. Even after Russia finally subjugated the Muslim republic in 2000 and installed a loyal warlord to control it, the conflict continued in the form of an Islamist insurgency whose fighters have staged suicide bombings as far afield as Moscow for years. Beslan is considered one of the conflict’s greatest travesties against the innocent. But a decade later the world has moved on. Residents of this little North Caucasus town have not, partly because important questions remain unanswered: How many terrorists escaped? What caused the explosion that lead to the storming of the school?

It was this sense of loss and longing for answers that attracted documentary photographer Diana Markosian to Beslan. Of Armenian heritage, Markosian, who is 25, often confronts the lingering effects of loss in her work, especially childhood losses. Markosian lost her own father and country, in a way, at seven when her mother moved her and her brother from Russia to Santa Barbara, and their father remained in Moscow. They never talked about her father after that and it was 15 years before she saw him again. When a Beslan survivor told her about the split of his life into “before” and “after” she understood.

“When I was separated from my dad, that’s exactly what happened, I had this experience of being torn apart from the life I had always known,” she tells TIME.

Diana Markosian
Diana Markosian

Having spent her early childhood in Armenia and Russia, Markosian also understood the significance of September 1. She still has the yellow and green Bambi backpack her father gave her for her first day of second grade. She hadn’t seen him in weeks, but he was there for the first day of school, holding hands with her mother and brother as they all walked to school.

As a young journalist in Moscow, Markosian passed through Beslan regularly en route to Chechnya. Sometimes she stopped at the school. It served as a monument to the siege, a battle-scarred structure filled with uncapped water bottles the children probably needed desperately during captivity. The hostages were corralled in an airless gym booby-trapped with explosives. For most, there was no water or food after the first day. On the second day the Chechen-speaking captors demanded Russia begin to remove its troops from Chechnya. On the third day there was an explosion and Russian forces stormed the building. In the ensuing firefight only one of 30 or so terrorists was captured alive, later sentenced to life imprisonment.

The shadow of Beslan followed Markosian until she decided to revisit the tragedy through her work. She arrived, she says, looking for the remains, “the direct aftermath of the event.”

She found children’s drawings.

They showed her what she couldn’t capture in photos, drawings of their dead fathers. The men were the first to be killed. Around 20 were shot execution style in a room where Russian literature was once taught. The corpses of fathers who had come to celebrate their children’s first day of school were thrown out the window and left to rot in the sun.

“I wanted this body of work to be collaboration,” says Markosian. “This is their story, their experience, and I wanted them to take part in it.”

Markosian had been resisting the constraints of traditional photojournalism, the distance between subject and photographer. The brutal, simple pictures made by the children in the tragedy’s aftermath combined with her own images allowed her to bridge the gap. Images of barely clothed men, women and children holding bottled water remain as unchanged as the rooms they inhabit in Markosian’s photographs, rooms decorated with bullet holes and peeling paint. On a picture of a sixth grade class she has the survivors write messages to their deceased classmates.

The children, now young adults, journeyed with her back to the school, sometimes for the first time since the tragedy. In silence, with their eyes shut, they remembered. Then they shared those memories with Markosian: the window through which their mother was shot, the spot next to them where their sister died, the classroom where they studied.

Markosian captures the survivors’ visual discomfort at being trapped in a place they have never been able to escape through portraits taken in the school. Other shots show the artifacts the dead left behind, a new shoe, a bloodied undershirt, a child’s untouched bedroom. For Beslan time has not provided resolution.

“The idea that time heals does not hold true for these families,” says Markosian. “Time heals? No, it doesn’t.”

Diana Markosian is a photographer based in Chechnya. Her previous photo essay, also published on TIME LightBox, Inventing My Father will be exhibited at Blue Sky Gallery in Portland in January 2015. See more of her work on her website.

Katya Cengel is a freelance writer. Follow her on Twitter @kcengel.

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