At least 80 people were killed and hundreds wounded when a massive truck bomb ripped through Kabul’s diplomatic area that houses several foreign embassies. The blast is said to have happened about 100 metres away from the Indian Embassy. All staff at the Indian embassy were said to be unharmed.
Bodies littered the scene and a towering plume of smoke rose from the area as the bomb exploded on Wednesday morning. The impact of the explosion is said to have shattered windows of several missions and residences hundreds of metres away.
It was not immediately clear what the target was. But witnesses described dozens of cars choking the roads as wounded survivors and panicked schoolgirls sought safety.
Hours after the explosion ambulances were still at the scene as rescue workers were digging bodies from the rubble.
“Unfortunately the toll has reached 80 martyred (killed) and over 300 wounded, including many women and children,” said health ministry spokesman Waheed Majroh, adding the figures would continue to climb as more bodies are pulled from the debris.
The interior ministry, which put the number of wounded at 320, said a suicide bomber had detonated an explosives-packed vehicle in Zanbaq Square around 8:30 am. “More than 50 vehicles were either destroyed or damaged,” it said in a statement.
The ministry called on Kabul residents to donate blood, saying hospitals were in “dire need”.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility. The Taliban — currently in the midst of their annual “spring offensive” — tweeted that they were not involved and “strongly condemn” the attack.
The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for several recent bombings in the Afghan capital, including a powerful blast targeting an armoured NATO convoy that killed at least eight people and wounded 28 on May 3.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to twitter to condemn the attack.
“We strongly condemn the terrorist blast in Kabul. Our thoughts are with the families of the deceased & prayers with the injured,” he tweeted.
The explosion also shattered windows at the Japanese embassy.
“Two Japanese embassy staffers were mildly injured, suffering cuts,” a foreign ministry official in Tokyo told AFP.
The French and German embassy is also reported to have suffered damages.
(With inputs from agencies)