Kabul: An ambulance packed with explosives blew up in a crowded area of Kabul on Saturday, killing at least 63 people and wounding 151 others, officials said, in an attack claimed by the Taliban.
"The latest toll from Kabul hospitals stands at 63 martyred and 151 wounded," health ministry spokesman Waheed Majroh told AFP.
The attacker struck near the old interior ministry building, interior ministry deputy spokesman Nasrat Rahimi told AFP.
"The suicide bomber used an ambulance to pass through the checkpoints. He passed through the first checkpoint saying he was taking a patient to Jamuriate hospital and at the second checkpoint he was recognised and blew his explosive-laden car," interior ministry deputy spokesman Nasrat Rahimi told AFP.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack outside the European Union delegation and interior ministry offices.
The Italian NGO Emergency said seven dead and 70 injured had been taken to its hospital, with its coordinator Dejan Panic tweeting that it had been a "massacre".
An AFP reporter said he saw "lots of dead and wounded" people in a nearby hospital. A popular stationery market was near the site of the blast, the force of which shattered windows of surrounding buildings and caused some low-rise structures to collapse.
In chaotic scenes at the Jamuriate hospital, which is the nearest medical facility to the blast, overwhelmed doctors and nurses rushed to treat dozens of wounded lying in the corridors.
Outside civilians walked through debris-covered streets carrying wounded people on their backs as paramedics loaded several bodies at a time into ambulances to take them to medical facilities around the city.
AFP reporters heard a loud explosion that shook the windows of their compound a few kilometres away, and photos shared on social media purportedly of the blast showed a huge plume of smoke rising into the sky.
The explosion happened in a busy part of the city where the High Peace Council has offices. Kabul police headquarters is also in the vicinity of the blast.
The explosion comes exactly a week after Taliban militants stormed a luxury hotel in Kabul, killing at least 22 people, the majority foreigners.
Photos shared on social media purportedly of the blast, which the presidential palace quickly condemned as a "crime against humanity", showed a huge plume of smoke rising into the sky.
Near the blast site, civilians walked through debris-covered streets carrying wounded on their backs as others loaded several bodies at a time into ambulances and private cars to take them to medical facilities around the city.
The Italian NGO Emergency said seven dead and 70 wounded had been taken to its hospital, with its coordinator Dejan Panic tweeting that it had been a "massacre".
A photo posted on Emergency's Twitter account showed hospital staff treating injured people in an outdoor walkway next to a garden.
A man told Ariana TV he had taken his wounded brother to Jamuriate and Emergency hospitals but had been turned away.
"They are asking people with non-life threatening wounds to go to other hospitals," he said.
Aminullah, whose stationery shop is just metres from where the explosion happened, said the force of the explosion shook the foundations of his building.
"The building shook. All our windows broke. The people are in shock in our market," he told AFP.
A man told Tolo News he was passing the area when the explosion happened.
"I heard a big bang and I fainted," he said, outside the Emergency hospital.
"There were dozens of people who were killed and wounded. There were pools of blood."
The offices of the High Peace Council, charged with negotiating with the Taliban, are also near the blast site.
"It targeted our checkpoint. It was really huge — all our windows are broken," Hassina Safi, a member of High Peace Council, told AFP.
"So far we don't have any reports if any of our members are wounded or killed."
A security alert issued on Saturday morning had warned that the Islamic State group was planning "to conduct aggressive attacks" on supermarkets, shops and hotels frequented by foreigners.
Updated Date: Jan 27, 2018 22:52:03 IST