Bombing in diplomatic area of Kabul kills 80, wounds scores
KABUL – Associated press
A massive explosion rocked a highly secure diplomatic area of Kabul early on May 31, killing 80 people and wounding as many as 350 in an attack that left a scene of mayhem and destruction and sent a huge plume of smoke over the Afghan capital.
Germany, Japan and Pakistan said some of their embassy employees and staff were hurt in the explosion, while Ankara confirmed that the Turkish Embassy to Kabul had also been damaged but that no Turkish personnel had been harmed.
The target of the attack – which officials said was a suicide car bombing – in the upmarket Wazir Akbar Khan area was not immediately known, but Ismail Kawasi, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s Public Health Ministry, said most of the casualties were civilians, including women and children.
Associated Press images from the scene showed the German Embassy and several other embassies located in the area heavily damaged.
The BBC said a driver for the British broadcaster was killed and four of its journalists were wounded in the attack. Afghanistan’s private TOLO Television also reported a staffer killed; Germany said an Afghan security guard outside its embassy was among those killed.
The explosion took place at the peak of Kabul’s rush hour when roads are packed with worktime commuters. It went off close to a busy intersection in the Wazir Akbar Khan district, said Najib Danish, deputy spokesman for the Interior Ministry.
The neighborhood is considered Kabul’s safest area, with foreign embassies protected by dozens of 10-foot-high blast walls and government offices, guarded by police and national security forces. The German Embassy, the Foreign Ministry and the Presidential Palace are all in the area, as are the British and the Canadian embassies. The Chinese, Turkish and Iranian embassies are also located there.
The U.S. Embassy and the NATO mission in Kabul, located about a kilometer away from the site of the explosion, both condemned the attack. The alliance praised “the courage of Afghan Security Forces, especially the police and first responders” following the attack.
Local TV footage showed shocked residents soaked in blood stumbling about, then being ferried away to hospitals. Passers-by stopped and helped the wounded into private cars, others congregated outside the nearby Italian-run Emergency Hospital.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the blast, though both the Taliban and the Islamic State group have staged large-scale attacks in the Afghan capital in the past.
The Taliban issued a statement later yesterday, denying any involvement and condemning all attacks against civilians. Zabihullah Mujahid, spokesman for the Taliban, said the Kabul explosion had “nothing to do with the Mujahedeen of the Islamic Emirate,” as the Taliban call themselves. Even though the Taliban claim they are only waging war against the Kabul government and foreign forces in Afghanistan, most of the casualties of their attacks have been civilians.
A statement from the Interior Ministry said it condemned “in the strongest terms the terrorist attack” that killed so many, including women and children. “These heinous acts go against the values of humanity as well values of peaceful Afghans,” it added.
German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said that along with the Afghan guard who was killed, a German diplomat was lightly wounded while an Afghan staffer sustained severe injuries. Gabriel offered his condolences to the guard’s family.
Germany has had troops in Afghanistan for 15 years, primarily concentrated in the north in and around Mazar-e-Sharif. They are currently one of the biggest contributors to the NATO-led Resolute Support mission with around 980 soldiers on the ground to support and train Afghan security forces.
The explosion was so heavy that more than 50 vehicles were either destroyed or damaged around the site of the attack. “We don’t know at this moment what was the target,” said Danish.
“We learned with deep sorrow that many were killed and wounded in a terrorist attack in Kabul today,” read a written statement issued by the Turkish Foreign Ministry.
“The attack took place in an area where many government facilities and foreign missions are located. Turkish embassy buildings also suffered damage due to the explosion. Embassy personnel were unharmed in the attack,” it said.
“We strongly condemn this heinous terrorist attack, wish Allah’s mercy upon those who lost their lives and a speedy recovery to the wounded, as well as convey our condolences to the brotherly government and people of Afghanistan. Turkey will continue to stand with the friendly and brotherly people and the government of Afghanistan in the fight against terrorism,” the ministry said.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said Turkey would temporarily evacuate some of its embassy staff from Kabul after the building was damaged in the explosion that hit the Afghan capital.
Speaking at a press conference with Slovenian counterpart Karl Erjavec, Çavuşoğlu called for an investigation into how the suicide car bomb was able to reach Kabul’s heavily protected diplomatic district where it was detonated at a busy intersection. “Where did they get support?” the minister questioned.
A Turkish Foreign Ministry delegation will also travel to Kabul to conduct an inspection, the minister stated.
Çavuşoğlu confirmed that no one from among the Turkish Embassy personnel was hurt in the explosion. Ankara’s ambassador to Kabul was in Turkey at the time of the attack, but he will return to Afghanistan, he added.