A suicide car bomber attacked near the Afghan Defense Ministry in Kabul on Tuesday morning, killing 64 people and injuring at least 347.
The blast, outside a security forces building in the busy Puli-Mahmood Khan neighborhood where homes, businesses, and mosques jostle for space, was felt throughout the city shortly before 9 a.m. The powerful explosion shattered windows more than half a mile away, the BBC reported.
Afghanistan's interior minister Sediq Sediqqi said on Wednesday the 64 people were killed in the attack, with 347 injured, making it the deadliest attack in years.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack through spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, The Guardian reported. A statement from the group read: "A martyrdom seeking unit of Islamic Emirate launched a heavy attack on 10th directorate intelligence building."
Later that same day, scattered reports said another explosion had detonated in the city. A police officer told a BBC reporter the blast was in the Shirpor neighborhood, and was detonated to "set off a panic," according to a local reporter. No one appeared to be seriously injured, but two people were hurt by shattered glass.
Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said on Tuesday morning that the first blast was "carried out by a suicide bomber in a car and possibly one or two bombers are still resisting. The scene of the attack has been completely cordoned off by Afghan security forces."
Afghan special forces rushed to the scene, and a gunfight in neighborhood ensued, Kabul police spokesman Basir Mujahid told Al Jazeera. He later told AP the battle had finished, although it remains unclear how many of the suspected militants were killed in the fight.
Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani condemned the "cowardly" attack in the "strongest possible terms," according to the BBC, later releasing a fuller statement.
He also tweeted paying tribute to the country's security forces.
"This was one of the most powerful explosions I have ever heard in my life," Obaidullah Tarakhail, a police commander who was present when the attack began told AP. He said he was unable to see and hear 20 minutes after the blast.
Emergency, a non-partisan NGO hospital working in the capital, tweeted that staff had treated at least 22 civilians since the blast. In a statement the Italian NGO added that the security situation in Kabul was steadily worsening, and said it was seeing increasing numbers of civilian women and children injured.
On Tuesday afternoon, Gen. John W. Nicholson of NATO's International Security Assistance Force condemned the attack in a statement: “Today’s attack shows the insurgents are unable to meet Afghan forces on the battlefield and must resort to these terrorist attacks.
"We strongly condemn the actions of Afghanistan’s enemies and remain firmly committed to supporting our Afghan partners and the National Unity Government.”
Several government buildings, shops, and nearby apartments were damaged in the blast.
Following the attack, the chief executive of Afghanistan, Abdullah Abdullah, visited the scene of the blast. Earlier, he condemned the attack in a string of tweets.
As the scale of the attack spread through the city, scores of people queued at the doors of many of Kabul's hospitals offering to give blood.
The attack comes at the beginning of the Taliban's spring offensive, Operation Omari, announced last week, and follows a U.N. report released only two days ago that showed there had been 600 civilian casualties in Afghanistan between Jan. 1 and March 31 of this year. In 2015, 688 civilians were killed.
Tuesday's bombing was the worst attack since August last year, when 240 people were injured after a truck bomb exploded in the the Shah Shahid neighborhood.
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