Sticky bombs planted on cars caught in Kabul's chaotic traffic are the newest weapons terrorizing Afghans in an increasingly lawless nation as Washington seeks a responsible exit after decades of war.

The primitive devices, sometimes made in machine shops for little money, are used by militants, criminals or those trying to settle personal scores. During the past year, one or more cars exploded in Kabul almost every day and residents are terrified.

The administration of President Joe Biden has alternated between persuasive and harsh words, even offering a ready-made peace proposal, to hasten the Taliban and the Afghan government toward an end to the conflict. In the Afghan capital last weekend, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the US wanted a "responsible end" to the relentless war in Afghanistan. But in the meantime, the violence is increasing and occasionally taking a new turn, like sticky bombs.

Kabul, a city traumatized by war, has been the scene of numerous suicide bombings and shootings. But the heavy use of sticky bombs is relatively new, said former Interior Minister Masoud Andarabi. "What's new is that they (the attackers) have created a simple model," he said, noting that sticky bombs are easy to make for around $ 25 and easy to transport.

Some victims are the target, while others appear to have been chosen at random, with the aim of terrorizing the entire population, Andarabi said. One motive appears to be undermining faith in peace efforts among ordinary Afghans, with the Taliban and the government blaming each other for the chaos.

The campaign has had an impact, leaving motorists navigating Kabul's chaotic traffic wondering if the nearby car could explode or if a beggar cutting his way through traffic could carry a sticky bomb.

Sticky bombs generally consist of explosives packed in a small box, a magnet attached to the box, and a mobile phone. The bomb maker programs a number into the phone number and dials it, and the last digit triggers the blast once it drives away from the target car.

Tactics vary, security forces say. From time to time, a small child asking for money will be used to distract the driver, while the attacker places the small box under the hole in the steering wheel. A new trick involves dropping the sticky bomb from inside a hole near the attacker's vehicle's gear lever as the target vehicle approaches from behind. When the target is on the little bomb, it detonates.

There is no shortage of recruits among the city's poor, who make up about two-thirds of Afghanistan's 35 million people. According to the World Bank, 72% of the 35 million people in Afghanistan live on about $ 1.90 a day and unemployment is around 30%.

In January, a mechanic was arrested in Kabul's homeless Shah Shaheed area, where ramshackle stores line up together. Abdul Sami, 30, was charged with putting sticky bombs inside newly repaired vehicles.

Sami's shop was one of more than a dozen auto parts shops and workshops on a bumpy road in Shah Shaheed. It's now closed and the tattered sign that once welcomed customers has been removed.

In 2015, the neighborhood was destroyed by a powerful truck bomb that killed 15 people and injured nearly 150. Ruins from that day still litter the local landscape.

Most of the mechanics in the area knew Sami, who was accused by security forces of randomly putting sticky bombs on cars, not targeting anyone in particular. Like the other mechanics, Sami was poor, making about $ 6 on some days and nothing on many other days, said Massoud, a mechanic who wanted to give only his first name for fear of attracting the attention of government security forces. .

Since Sami's arrest, police and security personnel have approached the area, questioning the mechanics and observing them.

Massoud was reluctant to speak.

"We never knew he was involved with sticky bombs," he said. "We still don't know if he was doing it. The security officers came and arrested him, we never knew he was doing something wrong."

The sticky bombs have targeted journalists, members of the judiciary and reformers of Afghanistan's nascent civil society. But Andarabi, the former interior minister, said the attacks have also been random and unpredictable, designed to terrorize and label the government incompetent and incapable of protecting its citizens.

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Andarabi blamed the Taliban, while the insurgent group pointed the finger at the security forces, claiming they use the bombings to discredit the Taliban and sabotage peace talks to stay in power.

The Islamic State-affiliated group, fought by both the government and the Taliban, has denounced many of the attacks, particularly those targeting journalists, the judiciary and civil society.

A former intelligence chief said mechanics are often mere pawns in the network planning these attacks.

“They are not ideologues. Someone like the mechanic is just poor, maybe even threatened: 'If you don't do this, your family will be in danger.' I think then anyone would do it, ”said Rahmatullah Nabil, a former Afghanistan intelligence chief known as NDS.

Massoud, the mechanic, said he cares about every new customer. "Whenever a driver brings his vehicle in for repair, I'm afraid there could be a sticky bomb somewhere in the car," he said. He said he fears finding himself in jail, accused of planting the explosives.

Kabul taxi driver Dil Agha said he fears children and beggars will be pushed between cars and tries to stay away from government vehicles in case they are attacked. Agha said that he worries that each work day is the last.

"We are afraid of everyone, street children and beggars, who could put the sticky bomb in our cars, especially in a crowded area," he said.