Taliban deny involvement in blast killing scores of civilians in one of Afghanistan's best-protected areas in the capital
At least 80 people were killed and more than 300 others wounded -- most of them civilians -- following a massive truck bombing in the heart of the capital Kabul on Wednesday morning, according to Afghan officials.
The Afghan government has so far not blamed the attack on any group while the Afghan Taliban released a statement denying their involvement.
The blast, close to the city’s diplomatic enclave and the Presidential Palace, was so intense that it shook the ground and shattered glass in various parts of the city. A huge hole was left at the scene of the explosion.
It also severely damaged banks, a telecommunications firm, public and private properties, and foreign embassies, including the Turkish, German, and Iranian missions, but no Turkish casualties were reported.
Najib Danish, spokesman for the Interior Ministry, told Anadolu Agency the attack happened when a tanker loaded with explosives detonated at Zanbaq Square close to the diplomatic enclave at around 8.30 a.m. (0300GMT).
The Zanbaq Square is home to a number of banks, private and public offices and embassies. The site of the blast is also one of the most secure parts of the country, but the bomber somehow managed to breach the police’s “Ring of Steel” around the diplomatic enclave and cause havoc.
Huge crowds of worried friends and relatives gathered outside the main public and charity hospitals close to the site of the attack to inquire out about their loved ones. Civil society activists have launched campaigns to donate much needed blood for the victims.
Death toll may rise
Mohammad Ismael, spokesman for the Health Ministry, confirmed that 80 people lost their lives and some 319 were wounded.
“Our health officials in various public hospitals in the city are trying their best to save lives,” Ismael said; many victims are in critical condition and the toll is expected to rise further.
Among those killed in the attack include one local staff member each of the BBC and Afghan network, Tolo TV.
President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani urged the Muslim world to exert pressure against the backers of the terrorists who use terrorism as a mean of political pressure on other countries.
“The terrorist groups under the slogan of Islam have once again ruthlessly killed people and committed war crimes, they have no knowledge of religious teachings,” Ghani said in a statement.
Meanwhile, members of the parliament severely criticized the “failure” of the security forces in stopping an explosives-laden truck into the diplomatic enclave.
Ramazan Bashardost, a member of the house, blamed the Ministry of Interior for not properly checking vehicles with tinted glasses or number plates associated with higher offices.
Kabul’s downtown ‘Shahr-e-Nau’ area, other malls and markets were now deserted despite the Ramadan shopping season following the blast.
Turkey condemns attack
Turkey denounced the bombing, saying in a Foreign Ministry statement, "We strongly condemn this heinous terrorist attack, wish Allah’s mercy upon those who lost their lives, speedy recovery to the wounded, and convey our condolences to the brotherly government and people of Afghanistan.
"The attack took place in an area where many government facilities and foreign missions are located. Turkish Embassy buildings also took damage due to the explosion. The embassy personnel are unharmed from the attack."
It added that Turkey will "continue to stand with the friendly and brotherly people, and government of Afghanistan in the fight against terrorism."
German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said in a statement the attack struck civilians and people in Afghanistan who are working to create a better future for the country.
India and Pakistan also condemned the attack. Pakistan's Foreign Ministry said the blast caused damage to nearby residences of some Pakistani diplomats and staff, leaving some with minor injuries.
The Taliban in Afghanistan have denied involvement in the attack.
“Our fighters do not have the permission to cause such a huge blast without a clear target,” said Taliban spokesman Zabehullah Mujahid in a statement, claiming the group condemns attacks that cause civilian casualties.
The blast comes as Afghanistan is set to host an international “Kabul Initiative” conference aimed at streamlining all efforts for peaceful resolution of the conflict in the country.
Javed Faisal, spokesman for the Office of Chief Executive in the National Unity Government (NUG), told reporters in Kabul last week the 'Kabul Initiative' conference would be attended by top ranking officials from the region, the U.S., the UN, the EU, Norway, Canada and Central Asia. He stressed all efforts for a political and peaceful solution of the conflict in Afghanistan should be Afghan-owned and Afghan-driven.