Kabul: at least 80 killed by massive car bomb in diplomatic quarter

Blast near the German embassy leaves more than 360 injured, Afghan interior ministry says

Scores of civilians have been killed after a massive explosion in a highly secure diplomatic area of Kabul left at least 80 people dead and wounded more than 360, the Afghan public health ministry has said.

The attack is the deadliest in the Afghan capital since an Isis suicide bomber killed nearly 100 people at a protest last summer, and one of the largest to hit Kabul since the 2001 intervention.

The huge blast of a bomb hidden in a sewage tanker occurred close to the German embassy in the Wazir Akbar Khan area of the capital on Wednesday morning, sending clouds of black smoke spiralling into the sky near the presidential palace and foreign embassies. Meanwhile, the vast majority of casualties are expected to be civilians.

It took place at the peak of Kabul’s rush-hour when the streets were packed with commuters and just days into the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Witnesses described dozens of cars choking the roads as wounded survivors and panicked schoolchildren sought safety, with people struggling to get through security checkpoints to search for loved ones.

No group has claimed responsibility but both the Taliban and Isis have staged large-scale attacks in the city. The Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, condemned the attack. “The terrorists, even in the holy month of Ramadan, the month of goodness, blessing and prayer, are not stopping the killing of our innocent people,” he said in a statement.

Basir Mujahid, a spokesman for Kabul police, said the bomb had struck close to the fortified entrance to the German embassy.

“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 said.

The German foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel, an Afghan security guard was killed in the blast and embassy employees wounded. He said all embassy workers were now safe and offered his condolences to the family of the slain guard.

The BBC said in a statement that one of its Afghan drivers, Mohammed Nazir, who was in his late 30s with a young family, was killed in the blast. Four journalists were wounded and treated in hospital. Their injuries are not thought to be life threatening.

A French minister, Marielle de Sarnez, said its embassy had been damaged but it was not known if there were any French victims.

The attack was the deadliest seemingly targeting government or diplomatic buildings in Kabul since a Taliban suicide bomber and gunman killed more than 60 in an attack on intelligence headquarters in April 2016.

Najib Danish, deputy spokesman for the Afghan interior ministry, said the blast was so large more than 30 vehicles were either destroyed or damaged.
Add cap Security forces inspect the site of a suicide attack where the German embassy is located in Kabul.tion
While embassies and government buildings in the area are located behind fortified security walls, the road where the bomb detonated is open to the public. Connecting two main traffic circles, the strip is always busy with civilian pedestrians and drivers, particularly in the morning.

Houses hundreds of metres away from the explosion were damaged, with windows and doors blown off their hinges. The blast was loud enough to wake some residents. Reports from journalists inside Kabul said the explosion shook their houses and shattered windows.

Shortly after the explosion, police had closed off the bomb site over a radius of a few hundred metres. Outside the police barrier, close to the Emergency Hospital, bystanders assessed the damage.

Entezar, a barber, said he was inside his shop when the explosion happened. “The whole window blew out,” he said, pointing to his facade.

The Taliban denied responsibility for the attack, although it came as the group is stepping up its annual “spring offensive”.

Self-declared Isis affiliates have also 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 3 May.

Pentagon chief Jim Mattis has warned of “another tough year” for both foreign troops and local forces in Afghanistan, where more than one-third of the country is outside of government control.

The blast was the latest in a long line of attacks in the Afghan capital. Kabul province had the highest number of casualties in the first three months of 2017 thanks to multiple attacks in the city, with civilians bearing the brunt of the violence.


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