Kabul, May 31 (IANS) A water tanker loaded with explosives blew up amid a deafening roar in the diplomatic zone here on Wednesday, killing at least 80 people, wounding around 350 including staff of some embassies and causing widespread destruction.
The massive explosion, which occurred at 8.22 a.m. during rush hour traffic in downtown Kabul, destroyed at least 50 vehicles and damaged dozens of buildings in a wide area that included the NATO Resolute Support headquarters.
The Taliban denied responsibility for the bloodbath and said the identity of the attackers “shall become clear at a later stage”. It was not clear if the Islamic State carried out the horrific attack in Zanbaq Square.
Afghan and foreign troops rushed to the devastated zone only to meet with ghastly scenes.
Amid scattered body parts, some badly wounded men and women, their faces dripping with blood, desperately sought help. Many were rushed to hospitals in makeshift ambulances before rescue and police teams took over.
A few cars caught fire and a large plume of black smoke rose into the sky.
The Afghan Health Ministry put the number of dead at 80. Tolo News said most victims were civilians, a large number of them reportedly from the Roshan mobile company.
Doctors said dozens of the wounded were in critical condition and that the toll was likely to rise. Hospitals frantically appealed for blood donation.
Among the dead was an Afghan journalist, media outlets reported. Two journalists — one each from the BBC and 1TV — were wounded.
A police officer said it was difficult to say who was the intended target.
The blast, which was heard in a large part of Kabul, took place close to the German Embassy, whose Afghan security officer was killed.
An unspecified number of German, Japanese and Pakistani Embassy staff were injured. Windows in the Indian Embassy were shattered. “By God’s grace, Indian Embassy staff are safe,” External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, now in Spain, denounced the Kabul mayhem.
“We strongly condemn the terrorist blast in Kabul. Our thoughts are with the families of the deceased and prayers with the injured,” the Prime Minister tweeted.
The first report said 19 people had been killed but the death toll rose rapidly as ambulances and police vehicles rushed the wounded and the barely alive to hospitals.
An Interior Ministry official told Tolo that the killer vehicle was a water tanker which was packed with explosives.
Pakistan said the blast had damaged the residences of some Pakistani diplomats and staff living in close vicinity and injured some of them. Japan said two embassy staffers were hurt in the bombings.
President Ashraf Ghani condemned “this inhuman and cowardly attack … in the holy month of Ramadan targeting innocent civilians”.
Afghanistan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah vowed to destroy the terrorists.
“We want peace but those who kill us in the holy month of Ramadan aren’t worth a call for peace. They most be destroyed and uprooted.”