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Scores killed in massive blast in Kabul’s diplomatic district

Published: May 31, 2017

KABUL, Afghanistan — A massive blast rocked the embassy area of central Kabul on Wednesday morning, killing at least 80 people and injuring more than 350, officials said.

A water tanker laden with explosives was detonated next to the blast walls protecting the German embassy, the officials said.

The blast, which was reportedly heard as far as 4 miles away and which blew out windows many blocks from the site, occurred just yards from the entrance to the heavily fortified zone where the U.S. and other embassies are located, along with NATO headquarters, the presidential palace and several government ministries. The explosion — one of the deadliest to hit Kabul in recent years — occurred at 8:22 a.m., when the main thoroughfares are packed with commuters.

Embassies within the zone reported structural damage, blown-out windows and damaged doors.

Photos from the scene showed that the German embassy was heavily damaged, with much of its facade blown in by the force of the explosion. A member of the Afghan parliament who visited the site of the bombing said that the explosion, which blew a 30-foot-wide hole in the road, had destroyed part of the embassy. An Interior Ministry spokesman said more than 30 cars and trucks were also destroyed.

“We’re pretty shaken, but mostly OK,” the diplomat said.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said in a statement: “The news from Afghanistan is shocking. I condemn the attack in Kabul, in which dozens of people were injured in killed, in the strongest possible terms.”

In Paris, Marielle de Sarnez, France’s Minister of European Affairs, said her country’s embassy was also damaged in the attack.

No group immediately took credit for the attack, but the Taliban announced they were not responsible.

A NATO spokesman did not immediately have any information on whether U.S. or coalition personnel had been injured or killed.

NATO’s Resolute Support headquarters seemed to suggest that the vehicle had attempted to gain access to the embassy and ministry area, which is surrounded by blast walls and guarded by a series of checkpoints.

“The vigilance and courage of the Afghan security forces prevented the (vehicle-borne improvised explosive device) from gaining entry to the Green Zone,” Resolute Support said in a statement.

Wednesday is the fifth day of Ramadan, the holy month in the Muslim calendar, when most Afghans fast during the day.

President Ashraf Ghani condemned the attack.

“The terrorists, even in the holy month of Ramadan, the month of goodness, blessing and prayer, are not stopping the killing of our innocent people,” Ghani said in a statement.

Insurgents’ success in pulling off an attack of this magnitude constitutes a significant security breach for a government trying to convince its people it can keep them safe.

A member of the Afghan parliament who visited the site of Wednesday bombing said that the explosion, which blew a 30-foot-wide hole in the road, had destroyed part of the German embassy. A diplomat who asked not to be named said the staff was shaken and some were injured.

Najib Danish, the Interior Ministry’s acting spokesman, said that the tanker bomb had destroyed more than 30 cars and trucks caught up in the blast.
NATO condemned the attack and offered condolences to the injured and the families of the dead.

“Attacks such as these only serve to strengthen our commitment to our Afghan partners as they seek a peaceful, stable future for their country,” NATO said in the statement.

Phillip Walter Wellman contributed to this report.
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