A massive explosion that sent a plume of smoke over Kabul rocked a highly secure diplomatic area of the Afghan capital on Wednesday morning, killing 80 people, wounding as many as 350, and leaving mayhem and destruction.
The target of the attack — which officials said was a suicide car bombing — was not immediately known, but Ismail Kawasi, spokesperson of the Public Health Ministry, said most of the casualties were civilians, including women and children.
It was one of the worst attacks Kabul has seen since the drawdown of foreign forces at the end of 2014.
Associated Press images from the scene showed the German Embassy and several other embassies located in the area heavily damaged in the explosion. It wasn’t known if any foreign diplomats were among the casualties but Germany and Pakistan said some of their embassy employees and staff were hurt in the explosion.
Explosion hit rush hour
The explosion took place at the peak of Kabul’s rush hour when roads are packed with commuters. It went off close to a busy intersection in the Wazir Akbar Khan district, said Najib Danish, deputy spokesperson for the Interior Ministry.
The neighbourhood is considered Kabul’s safest area, with foreign embassies protected by dozens of three-metre-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, and the Chinese, Turkish and Iranian embassies.
Local TV footage showed shocked residents soaked in blood stumbling about, then being ferried away to hospitals. Passersby stopped and helped the wounded into their private cars, others congregated outside the nearby Italian-run Emergency Hospital.