A powerful bomb exploded in the morning rush hour in the Afghan capital’s diplomatic quarter on Wednesday, killing and wounding hundreds of people.
The explosion, one of the deadliest in Kabul and coming at the start of the holy month of Ramadan, occurred close to the fortified entrance to the German embassy on a road usually choked with traffic at that time of day, said Basir Mujahid, a spokesman for Kabul police.
“It was a car bomb near the German embassy, but there are several other important compounds and offices near there too. It is hard to say what the exact target is,” Mujahid told Reuters.
The interior ministry said a suicide bomber had detonated an explosives-packed vehicle in Zanbaq Square around 8:30 am.
The blast, which shattered windows and blew doors off their hinges in houses hundreds of meters away, was unusually
powerful, with some reports saying it was caused by explosives concealed in a water tanker.
A public health official said at least 80 people had been killed and more than 350 wounded. The victims appear mainly to have been Afghan civilians.
But employees at the German embassy were also injured and one Afghan security guard was killed, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said on Twitter.
“The attack took place very close to the German embassy. It hit civilians and those who are in Afghanistan to work for a better future for the country with the people there. It’s especially contemptible that these people were the target,” Gabriel said.
The French, Chinese, Japanese, Turkish and Bulgarian missions were among those damaged, the countries said, adding there were no immediate signs of injuries among diplomats.
“It felt like an earthquake,” said 21-year-old Mohammad Hassan from his hospital bed. His head wound had been bandaged but blood still soaked his white dress shirt.
Another lightly wounded victim, Nabib Ahmad, 27, said there was widespread destruction and confusion. “I couldn’t think clearly, there was a mess everywhere,” he said.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi condemned the blast. “India stands with Afghanistan in fighting all types of terrorism. Forces supporting terrorism need to be defeated,” he said in a tweet.
Both the Taliban and ISIS have carried out high-profile attacks in Kabul in recent months but there was no
immediate claim of responsibility.
Pentagon chief Jim Mattis has warned of “another tough year” for both foreign troops and local forces in Afghanistan.
Afghan troops are backed by US and NATO forces, and the Pentagon has reportedly asked the White House to send thousands more soldiers to break the deadlock in the battle against the Taliban.