An explosives-laden truck has exploded among rush-hour traffic in Kabul’s diplomatic district, killing at least 80 people and injuring hundreds more, Afghan officials say. The blast was so powerful that nearby buildings were reduced to rubble.
The incident happened at 8:22 a.m. on Wednesday when a massive explosion occurred in a crowded area on the edge of the Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood, not far from foreign embassies and government buildings. Plumes of smoke were seen billowing from the scene.
It was not immediately clear what was the exact target of the explosion, but video from the scene showed buildings and vehicles which were completely destroyed. The health ministry said at least 80 people had been killed and 350 others have been injured. The death toll is expected to rise..
Al Jazeera, citing security sources, said at least 100 people had been killed.
German Foreign Minister Sigmar said a number of workers at the German embassy were among those injured, but there was no immediate word on their condition. An afghan security officer assigned to protect the embassy was killed, Sigmar added.
Two staff members of the Japanese embassy were also among the injured, but their injuries are not believed to be life-threatening, Japan’s Foreign Ministry said. It was not immediately known whether any other foreigners were among the casualties.
Damage has been reported at a number of embassies, including the South Korean, German, and Iranian embassies, even though the attack took place just outside the so-called Green Zone which houses embassies and government buildings. The studio of 1TV was also damaged.
Residents in the area said Wednesday’s explosion was unusually powerful, with many windows being shattered and shaking being felt across large parts of the capital. “Massive explosion just shattered all the windows and glass in our bureau,” said Jessica Donati, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal.
U.S. Navy Captain William Salvin, a spokesman for the U.S.-led Resolute Support (RS) Mission (formerly ISAF), said the explosion happened near the Germany embassy in the vicinity of the RS headquarters. “We are working to gain accountability for RS personnel,” he said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Wednesday’s attack, but experts said the Islamic State group (ISIS) appeared to be the most likely perpetrator. A spokesman for the Taliban told Al Jazeera that its militants were not behind the attack.
Afghanistan’s ambassador to the United States, Hamdullah Mohib, condemned the attack. “Which coward terrorist group is going to claim responsibility for this mass murder? Total disregard for humanity. Kabul bleeding in Ramadhan,” he said on his Twitter account.
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