Death toll at 90 in huge suicide bombing in Afghan capital

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A suicide attacker struck the fortified heart of the Afghan capital with a massive truck bomb Wednesday, killing 90 people, wounding 400 and raising new fears about the government’s ability to protect its citizens nearly 16 years into a war with insurgents.

The bomber drove into Kabul’s heavily guarded diplomatic quarter during the morning rush hour, leaving behind a bloody scene of chaos and destruction in one of the worst attacks since the drawdown of foreign forces from Afghanistan in 2014.

Most of the casualties were civilians, including women and children, said Ismail Kawasi, spokesman of the public health ministry. But the dead also included Afghan security guards at the facilities, including the US Embassy, while 11 American contractors were wounded - none with life-threatening injuries, a US State Department official said.

“I have been to many attacks, taken wounded people out of many blast sites, but I can say I have ever seen such a horrible attack as I saw this morning,” ambulance driver Alef Ahmadzai told The Associated Press. “Everywhere was on fire and so many people were in critical condition.”

There was no claim of responsibility for the attack, which came in the first week of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

A Taliban spokesman told Al Arabiya that his organization denied responsibility over the attack.

Basir Mujahid, a spokesman for Kabul police, said the blast hit near the fortified entrance to the German embassy. It caused damage to both the French and German embassies.

"It was a car bomb near the German embassy, but there are several other important compounds and offices near there too. It is hard to say what the exact target is," Mujahid said.

انفجار قرب السفارة الألمانية في كابول وسقوط ضحايا
انفجار قرب السفارة الألمانية في كابول وسقوط ضحايا

The explosion shattered windows and blew doors off their hinges in houses hundreds of meters (yards) away.

A public health spokesman said at least 67 wounded people had been taken to hospitals around Kabul.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast. A spokesman for Taliban insurgents said he was gathering information.

Violence around Afghanistan has been rising throughout the year, as the Taliban push to defeat the US-backed government and reimpose Islamic law after their 2001 ouster in a Washington-backed invasion.

انفجار قرب السفارة الألمانية في كابول وسقوط ضحايا
انفجار قرب السفارة الألمانية في كابول وسقوط ضحايا

Since most international troops withdrew at the end of 2014, the Taliban have gained ground and now control or contest about 40 percent of the country, according to U.S. estimates, though President Ashraf Ghani's government holds all provincial centers.

US President Donald Trump is due to decide soon on a recommendation to send 3,000 to 5,000 more troops to bolster the small NATO training force and U.S. counter-terrorism mission now totaling just over 10,000.

The commander of US forces in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson, told a congressional hearing earlier this year that he needed several thousand more troops to help Afghan forces break a "stalemate" with the Taliban.

(With AP, AFP and Reuters)

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