A massive bomb ripped through the diplomatic district of Kabul during rush hour Wednesday morning, with civilians the main casualties. Hundreds of wounded people flooded hospitals across the city, and the initial death toll of 80 is expected to rise. No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, which comes just a few days into the holy month of Ramadan.
Officials described the explosion as “one of the biggest” to hit the Afghan capital. A water tanker packed with explosives was used in the attack, which took place at 8:25 a.m. local time, as thousands of people made their way to government and embassy offices in central Kabul.
Militant organizations – including the Islamic State group – have often advocated for an increase in violence during Ramadan, and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said he “strongly condemned the cowardly attack in the holy month of Ramadan targeting innocent civilians in their daily life.”
The explosion happened close to the German embassy in Zanbaq Square, near the entrance to a part of Kabul known as the Green Zone. This area houses the U.S. military headquarters and embassy.
Germany’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Sigmar Gabriel condemned the attack, and confirmed that an Afghan security officer who was protecting the embassy was killed in the blast. Gabriel added that such attacks “do not change in any way our determination to continue supporting the Afghan government in further stabilizing the country.”
A spokesman for Kabul police told Reuters that though the attack took place in the diplomatic zone, it was “hard to say what the exact target is.” Afghan security forces reportedly prevented the vehicle from entering the heavily protected Green Zone, meaning the truck may not have reached its intended target.
Taliban spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid gave a statement to the media denying responsibility for Wednesday’s attack, so attention will now turn to the local branch of ISIS. The attack in Kabul comes just over 24 hours after the group claimed responsibility for a pair of bomb blasts in Baghdad that killed at least 30 people. So far the terrorist group has not made any claim regarding the Kabul attack.
The BBC has confirmed a driver employed by its Afghan service — Mohammed Nazir — died in the blast as he was driving journalists back to their offices. Four BBC journalists were injured in the attack, though none are thought to have life-threatening injuries. An IT engineer for local 24-hour news station Tolo TV was also killed in the attack.