KABUL: At least 50 people were killed or wounded Wednesday when a massive suicide car bombing struck the diplomatic area of Kabul, Afghan officials said.
The blast in the Wazir Akbar Khan area happened near several embassies and not far from the presidential palace. Ismail Kawasi, spokesman for the public health ministry, said more than 50 wounded people are in Kabul hospitals so far. Najib Danish, a deputy spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said the blast was so heavy more than 30 vehicles were either destroyed or damaged.
Early reports say the blast was caused by a car bomb in central Zanbaq Square, with windows and doors blown out hundreds of metres away.
Images on social media show a large cloud of black smoke over the city and a series of destroyed vehicles. The central blast area has been cordoned off by police.
Media reports said burnt-out cars are one indication of the blast’s force. Images of shattered glass carpeting a large area of the square are also being shared widely on social media.
Basir Mujahid a spokesman for Kabul police, told media: “It was a car bomb near the German embassy, but there are several other important compounds and offices near there too. It is hard to say what the exact target is.”
No group has yet said it carried out Wednesday’s attack, but last month the Taliban announced the start of a major spring offensive, saying their main focus would be foreign forces, targeting them with a mix of conventional, guerrilla, insider and suicide attacks.
The US has about 8,400 troops in Afghanistan, with another 5,000 from Nato allies.
A recent Taliban attack on an Afghan army training compound in the northern city of Mazar-e Sharif killed at least 135 soldiers, and led to the resignation of the defence minister and army chief of staff.
The so-called Islamic State in Afghanistan has also been active, saying it was behind a suicide bomb attack this month on a Nato convoy that was passing the US embassy in Kabul. At least eight civilians were killed.