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At least 64 people killed and 320 wounded as bomb blast rips through Afghan diplomatic quarter

The French and German embassies were damaged in the blast.

Image: Rahmat Gul AP/PA Images

Updated 8.08am

AT LEAST 64 people were killed and 300 wounded today as a massive blast ripped through Kabul’s diplomatic quarter, shattering the morning rush hour and bringing carnage to the streets of the Afghan capital.

Bodies littered the scene and a huge plume of smoke rose from the area which houses foreign embassies. However, it was not immediately clear what the target was.

The French and German embassies were damaged by the massive bomb, a French minister said.

“The information that I have at the moment is that there is material damage in the French embassy, there is also material damage in the Germany embassy,” European affairs minister Marielle de Sarnez told Europe 1 radio.

She added she had no information on any possible casualties at the two missions.

Witnesses described dozens of cars choking the roads as wounded survivors and panicked schoolgirls sought safety, with men and woman struggling to get through security checkpoints to search for loved ones.

“A car bomb” exploded at 8:25 am, Najib Danish, an interior ministry spokesman, told AFP.

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

Health ministry spokesman Waheed Majroh said at least 64 people had been killed and 320 wounded, with the figures confirmed by a second health official and the government media office.

Authorities warned the toll could yet rise. “They are still bringing bodies and wounded people to hospitals,” senior health ministry spokesman Ismael Kawoosi told AFP.

The interior ministry was calling on Kabul residents to donate blood, saying hospitals were in “dire need”.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the attack came as the resurgent Taliban are stepping up their annual “spring offensive”.

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

Today’s attack underscores spiralling insecurity in Afghanistan, where Afghan forces beset by soaring casualties and desertions are struggling to beat back the insurgents. More than one-third of the country is outside government control.

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 deadlocked fight against the Taliban.

US troops in Afghanistan number about 8,400 today, and there are another 5,000 from NATO allies, who also mainly serve in an advisory capacity – a far cry from the US presence of more than 100,000 six years ago.

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

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

© – AFP 2017

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