Kabul truck bomb explosion kills over 80, injures 320

31 May 2017

A powerful truck bomb struck the diplomatic area of the Afghan capital Kabul, in the morning rush hours today, killing at least 80 people and leaving another 320 wounded.

The blast struck just 50 metres away from the German embassy in Zanbaq Square, in an area which houses several diplomatic missions, at around 9:30 am (IST), caused heavy civilian casualties.

Reports quoting Manpreet Vohra, India's envoy to Afghanistan, said the bomb went off around 100 metres from India's embassy, but none of the embassy staff was hurt.

"We are all safe, all our staff, all our personnel are safe. However, the blast was very large and nearby buildings including our own building have considerable damage in terms of broken glass and shattered windows and blown doors etc," he said.

The explosion shattered windows at the Japanese embassy. Reports said two Japanese embassy staffers suffered minor injuries.

The exploasion damaged the French and German embassies as well.

Pentagon chief Jim Mattis has warned of "another tough year" for both foreign troops and local forces in Afghanistan.

A statement from Kabul's ministry of interior affairs condemned the ''terrorist attack'' that killed so many, including women and children, in the strongest terms.

The ministry did not have details on the possible target of the attack.

Local Pajwok news agency quoting eyewitnesses said the blast took place in front of the office of the National Directorate of Security (NDS), Afghanistan's primary intelligence agency. However, CNN-News 18 reported that the site of the explosion was very close to the German Gate, which is the entry point to the road which houses missions of several countries, the closes being the German Embassy.

The blast blew out the windows in several missions and residences hundreds of metres away and brought mayhem to the streets of the Afghan capital in the morning rush hour.

A towering plume of smoke rose from the area, which eyewitnesses said, was littered with strewn bodies and dozens of cars choking the roads as wounded survivors and panicked schoolgirls running for cover.

While the motive was not immediately clear, the attack underscores the extreme insecurity in Afghanistan, where a military is incapable of beating back the insurgents, who now control over a third of the country.

Health officials were struggling to arrange ambulances to take the wounded to hospital as firefighters struggled to control blazes in several buildings.

With the delay in providing medical assistance to the wounded, authorities fear the toll could rise.

The interior ministry called on Kabul residents to donate blood, saying hospitals were in "dire need".

While neither the Taliban nor the Islamic State own up responsibility for the carnage, the attack came as a resurgent Taliban started stepping up their annual "spring offensive".

The Islamic State group has also claimed responsibility for several recent bombings in the Afghan capital, including the powerful 3 May blast targeting an armoured NATO convoy that killed at least eight people and wounded 28.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted: "We strongly condemn the terrorist blast in Kabul. Our thoughts are with the families of the deceased & prayers with the injured."

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

Afghan troops are backed by US and NATO forces, and the Pentagon has reportedly asked the White House to send thousands more troops to the country to break the deadlock in the fight against the Taliban.

US troops in Afghanistan number about 8,400 today, and there are another 5,000 from NATO allies.

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