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80 dead, over 300 injured after explosion in Afghanistan’s Kabul

80 DEAD, OVER 300 INJURED AFTER EXPLOSION IN AFGHANISTAN’S KABUL

At least 80 people were killed and 300 wounded were taken to Kabul hospitals after a huge car bomb exploded in the Afghan capital on Wednesday, a public health official said, and the casualty total could rise.

"They are still bringing bodies and wounded people to hospitals," senior health ministry spokesman Ismael Kawoosi said.

Witnesses said they saw crowds gathered around ambulances that carried the dead and wounded to hospitals, trying to identify bodies.

The explosion occurred at the peak of Kabul's rush hour when roads are packed with worktime commuters. The neighborhood is considered Kabul's safest area, with foreign embassies protected by dozens of 10-foot-high blast walls and government offices, guarded by police and national security forces. The German Embassy, the Foreign Ministry and the Presidential Palace are all in the area.

Deputy Spokesman for the Interior Ministry Najib Danish said the blast was so heavy that more than 30 vehicles were either destroyed or damaged at the site of the attack. "We don't know at this moment what was the target of the attack, but most of the casualties are civilians," said Danish.

Windows were shattered in shops, restaurants and other buildings up to a kilometer (half mile) from the blast site.

Indian, Japanese embassies damaged

Manpreet Vohra, India's envoy to Afghanistan, told the Times Now television channel the bomb went off around 100 metres from India's embassy, one of several in the area.

"We are all safe, all our staff, all our personnel are safe. However, the blast was very large and nearby buildings including our own building have considerable damage in terms of broken glass and shattered windows and blown doors etc," he said.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted: "We strongly condemn the terrorist blast in Kabul. Our thoughts are with the families of the deceased & prayers with the injured."

The explosion also shattered windows at the Japanese embassy. "Two Japanese embassy staffers were mildly injured, suffering cuts," a foreign ministry official in Tokyo told AFP.

France also reported damage to its own embassy and the German one.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the blast but both the Taliban and the Daesh terror group have staged large-scale attacks in the Afghan capital in the past.

Last month, the Afghan Taliban announced the beginning of their spring offensive, promising to build their political base in the country while focusing military assaults on the international coalition and Afghan security forces.

U.S. and Afghan forces have been battling the Taliban insurgency for more than 15 years. The United States now has more than 8,000 troops in Afghanistan, training local forces and conducting counterterrorism operations. 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 U.S. and British troops had fought bitterly to return to the government.

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