Scores killed as huge explosion rocks Kabul’s diplomatic quarter

A massive explosion rocked a highly secure diplomatic area of Kabul on Wednesday morning, killing at least 80 people and wounding hundreds more, according to the Afghan Interior Ministry.

The target of the attack – which officials said was a suicide car bombing – was not immediately known but Ismail Kawasi, spokesman of the public health ministry, said most of the casualties were civilians.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani strongly condemned the attack, which came just days into the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

A statement from his office quoted Ghani as saying that “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”.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid denied responsibility for the bombing, adding in a statement that the movement condemns untargeted attacks that cause civilian casualties.

Both the Taliban and the Islamic State group have staged large-scale attacks in the Afghan capital in the past.

Heavily fortified area

The explosion took place at the peak of Kabul‘s rush hour when roads are packed with worktime commuters. It appeared to have gone off close to a busy intersection in the Wazir Akbar Khan district but Najib Danish, deputy spokesman for the Interior Ministry, did not have a more precise location.

The neighbourhood is considered Kabul’s safest area, with foreign embassies protected by dozens of 10-foot-high blast walls and government offices, guarded by police and national security forces.

The German Embassy, the Foreign Ministry and the Presidential Palace are all in the area, as are the British and the Canadian embassies. The Chinese, Turkish and Iranian embassies are also located there.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said in a statement that staff at staff at the German embassy had been injured in the bombing, and that one Afghan security officer who was protecting the embassy grounds was among the dead.

Gabriel offered his condolences to the family of the slain officer, adding that all embassy staff are now safe.

France’s foreign minister, Marielle de Sarnez, said the French embassy in Kabul had also suffered material damage, but that there were no reports of French casualties.

Spiralling insecurity

The blast was so heavy that more than 50 vehicles were either destroyed or damaged at the site of the attack. “We don’t know at this moment what was the target of the attack,” said Danish.

Windows were shattered in shops, restaurants and other buildings up to a kilometre (half mile) from the blast site.

More than an hour after the explosion, ambulances were still taking the wounded to hospital and officials were pulling bodies from the rubble as firefighters struggled to control blazes in several buildings.

The attack underscores spiralling insecurity in Afghanistan, where a military beset by soaring casualties and desertions is struggling to beat back insurgents. Over a third of the country is outside government control.

Last month, the Afghan Taliban announced the beginning of their spring offensive, promising to build their political base in the country while focusing military assaults on the international coalition and Afghan security forces.

US and Afghan forces have been battling the Taliban insurgency for more than 15 years. The United States now has more than 8,000 troops in Afghanistan, training local forces and conducting counterterrorism operations.

In the past year, they have largely concentrated on thwarting a surge of attacks by the Taliban, who have captured key districts, such as Helmand province, which US and British troops had fought bitterly to return to the government.

(FRANCE 24 with AP)

Date created : 2017-05-31

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