KABUL: An ambulance packed with explosives blew up in a crowded area of Kabul, killing at least 40 people and wounding 140 others, officials said, in an attack claimed by the Taliban.
“The latest toll from Kabul hospitals stands at 40 martyred and 140 wounded,” health ministry spokesman Waheed Majroh told media.
“It is a massacre,” said Dejan Panic coordinator in Afghanistan for the Italian aid group Emergency, which runs a nearby trauma hospital. In a message on Twitter, the group said more than 50 wounded had been brought in to that hospital alone.
Mirwais Yasini, a member of parliament who was nearby when the explosion occurred, said the ambulance approached the checkpoint, close to an office of the High Peace Council and several foreign embassies, and blew up.
He said a number of people were lying on the ground. People helped walking wounded away as ambulances with sirens wailing inched their way through the traffic-clogged streets of the city centre.
A plume of grey smoke rose from the blast area in the city centre and buildings hundreds of meters away were shaken by the force of the explosion.
Pakistan condemns Kabul explosion
Reacting to the explosion, Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned the terror attack, according to foreign office spokesperson.
In a tweet, Mohammad Faisal said: “The people and government of Pakistan condemn the terrorist blast in Kabul and extend heartfelt condolences to the families of those who lost their lives in this reprehensible act. Terrorism is not the way forward.”
On January 21, at least five people were killed and six injured after gunmen attacked Kabul’s Intercontinental Hotel, seizing hostages and exchanging gunfire with security forces as the building in the Afghan capital caught fire and residents and staff fled.
The operation to rescue the hostages was completed the next day, with 126 hostages, 41 foreigners among them, rescued.
The ministry’s spokesperson, Najib Danish, said three attackers were killed in the operation.
Hotel manager Ahmad Haris Nayab — who escaped unhurt — said the attackers had got into the main part of the hotel through a kitchen and people tried to get out amid bursts of gunfire.
The attack came days after a US embassy warning of possible attacks on hotels in Kabul.