World

Deadly Kabul blast kills 80, injures over 300

Explosion in Afghanistan capital leaves at least 80 dead, over 300 hurt

KABUL: A powerful bomb hidden in a vehicle exploded during morning rush hour in the centre of the Afghan capital yesterday, police said, killing at least 80 people, wounding more than 300 and damaging embassy buildings.

The victims appeared mainly to have been Afghan civilians.

The bomb, one of the deadliest in Kabul and coming at the start of Ramadan, exploded close to the fortified entrance to the German embassy, wounding some staff, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said.

Pictures showed the embassy building with its windows ripped out, Reuters reported.

Bodies littered the scene and a towering plume of smoke rose from the highly fortified area.

A Western diplomatic source told AFP that the vehicle was a water tanker stuffed with more than 1,500kg of explosives, and left a 7m deep crater at the scene.

Rescue workers were digging bodies from the rubble hours after the explosion.

Dozens of damaged cars choked the roads as wounded survivors sought safety.

Men and women struggled to get through security checkpoints to search for loved ones.

At the Wazir Akbar Khan hospital a few hundred metres away, there were scenes of chaos as ambulances brought in the injured and police trucks began bringing in the bodies.

Some bodies were burned or destroyed beyond recognition.

Frantic relatives scanned casualty lists and questioned hospital staff members for news.

"It felt like an earthquake," said Mr Mohammad Hassan, 21, describing the moment the blast struck the bank where he was working.

His head wound had been bandaged but blood still soaked his white shirt.

Another lightly wounded victim, Mr Nabib Ahmad, 27, said there was widespread destruction and confusion.

'MESS EVERYWHERE'

"I couldn't think clearly. There was mess everywhere," he said.

It was not immediately clear what the target was. But 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.

No group had claimed responsibility for the blast by late afternoon yesterday.

The Taleban denied responsibility, and said they condemned attacks that have no legitimate target and killed civilians.

The French, Turkish and Chinese embassies were among those damaged, the three countries said.

US President Donald Trump is to decide soon on a recommendation to send 3,000 to 5,000 more troops to bolster the small Nato training force and US counter-terrorism mission now totalling just over 10,000.

The commander of US forces in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson, told a congressional hearing this year that he needed several thousand more troops to help Afghan forces break a "stalemate" with the Taleban.

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