Ambulance bomb kills 95, wounds 158 in Kabul - official

2018-01-28 09:49
An injured man is moved to a stretcher outside a hospital following a suicide attack in Kabul. (Rahmat Gul, AP)

An injured man is moved to a stretcher outside a hospital following a suicide attack in Kabul. (Rahmat Gul, AP)

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Kabul - An explosives-packed ambulance blew up in a crowded area of Kabul on Saturday, killing at least 95 people and wounding 158 others, officials said, in one of the biggest blasts to rock the war-torn city in recent years.

US President Donald Trump called for "decisive action" against the Taliban after the militant group claimed the assault - the second it has carried out in the Afghan capital in a week.

The attack triggered chaotic scenes as terrified survivors fled the area scattered with body parts, blood and debris, and hospitals were overwhelmed by the large number of wounded.

It came as both the insurgents and the Islamic State group have escalated their attacks on Kabul, one of the deadliest places in Afghanistan for civilians.

An AFP reporter saw "lots of dead and wounded" civilians in the Jamuriate hospital, which is metres away from the blast and where medical staff struggled to treat the bloodied men, women and children lying on the floor in corridors.

Civilian victims

Health ministry spokesperson Waheed Majroh said that the toll "now stands at 95 dead, 158 wounded", shortly after the interior ministry warned that an earlier death toll of 63 could rise.

The blast happened in an area where several high-profile organisations, including the European Union, have offices. Members of the EU delegation in Kabul were in their "safe room" and there were no casualties, an official said.

The force of the explosion shook windows of buildings at least 2km away and caused some low-rise structures in the immediate vicinity to collapse.

The suicide bomber passed through at least one checkpoint in the ambulance, saying he was taking a patient to Jamuriate hospital, said an interior ministry spokesperson.

"At the second checkpoint he was recognised and blew his explosive-laden car," Nasrat Rahimi said.

Rahimi told a news conference that most of the victims were civilians. He said the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani Network was responsible and four suspects had been arrested.

Twenty minutes before the blast an AFP reporter saw police checking ambulances several hundred metres from the scene of the explosion, as the drivers and patients stood on the street. Ambulances are rarely checked in the city.

The International Committee of the Red Cross in Afghanistan condemned the use of an ambulance in the bombing, saying on Twitter it was "unacceptable and unjustifiable".

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