80 dead, more than 350 injured in Afghanistan attack

A huge auto bomb explosion killed at least 80 people and wounded more than 350 others in Kabul's diplomatic zone, Afghanistan's Ministry of Public Health says.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said the attack was in the "immediate vicinity" of its embassy.

One Afghan security guard was killed and others were likely among the dead, Gabriel said. "The circumstances are to be clarified", the foreign ministry added, explaining that there is no proof that the diplomatic mission was targeted.

The BBC's Harun Najafizada in Kabul says questions are already being asked about how the vehicle could have penetrated such a heavily fortified area, with its 3m (10ft) high blast walls, to carry out the deadliest attack in the capital in years.

A spokesman for the Taliban denied it was behind the attack.

A powerful auto bomb exploded in the center of Afghanistan's capital on Wednesday, killing or wounding dozens of people and sending clouds of black smoke into the sky above the presidential palace and foreign embassies, Reuters reported citing officials.

Among other office buildings located in the area are an intelligence agency office, a local TV channel, a mobile phone company as well as German, Indian and British embassies.

- May 31: At least 80 people are killed and hundreds wounded when a massive truck bomb rips through Kabul's diplomatic quarter, shattering windows hundreds of metres away.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.

Afghanistan president Ashraf Ghani's office condemned the "cowardly attack in the holy Month of Ramadan targeting innocent civilians in their daily life", while the U.S. Embassy Kabul Special Charge d'Affaires Hugo Llorens said, "This horrific and shameful attack demonstrates these terrorists' complete disregard for human life and their nihilistic opposition to the dream of a peaceful future for Afghanistan".

Afghan officials said 350 people were also wounded, but the number of casualties is expected to rise. Germany began carrying out group deportations of Afghans in December, seeking to show it is tackling an influx of migrants by getting rid of those who do not qualify as refugees.

It is unclear whether German embassy staff in Kabul were injured or killed, a security source said. The BBC has confirmed the death of a BBC Afghan driver German embassy officials were injured in the blast, the German Foreign Minister said.

"We are all safe, all our staff, all our personnel are safe". Officials said at least 25 people were wounded, with a number of civilian vehicles destroyed or badly damaged.

Shortly after the explosion, all roads in Wazir Akbar Khan were blocked off by Afghan security forces and helicopters were deployed over the neighbourhood.

"It felt like an natural disaster", said 21-year-old Mohammad Hassan, describing the moment the blast struck the bank where he was working. By midmorning, many were limping or being wheeled out of local hospitals, with their clothes covered in blood and their heads, arms or feet wrapped in bandages.

Another lightly wounded victim, Nabib Ahmad, 27, said there was widespread destruction and confusion. "Their injuries are not thought to be life threatening", Unsworth said. Many were rushed to hospitals in makeshift ambulances before rescue and police teams took over.

Neighbouring Pakistan condemned the attack in a statement from the Foreign Ministry.

"India stands with Afghanistan in fighting all types of terrorism".

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was quick to condemn the blast from Spain. All staff were safe, he said, though the blast left "considerable damage", including shattered windows. In the past year, they have largely concentrated on thwarting a surge of attacks by the Taliban, who have captured key districts, such as Helmand province, which USA and British troops had fought bitterly to return to the government.

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