UPDATES DEATH TOLL; ADDS CONDEMNATIONS
By Shadi Khan Saif
KABUL, Afghanistan (AA) - A powerful suicide car bombing at the entrance of a government compound in the Afghan capital Kabul on Saturday killed more than 90 people and injured scores of others, according to eyewitness and official accounts.
At around 12.50 p.m. local time (0820GMT), an ambulance packed with explosives was detonated at the entrance of the Interior Ministry, close to busy Sadarat Square during afternoon rush hour. Initially, the Health Ministry confirmed more than 70 wounded people were rushed to public hospitals for treatment.
Ismael Kawosi, spokesman for the Ministry of Health, told Anadolu Agency that at least 40 people, including civilians and guards at the ministry, lost their lives and up to 140 people got wounded in this massive bombing in a crowded area close to a number of public offices, embassies, and markets.
“All public hospitals, the Jamhoriat Shifa Khana, 400-Bed Hospital, Hospital of the National Directorate of Security and the Emergency Hospital, are treating the wounded”, he said.
The death toll kept climbing, with the Ministry of Interior declaring in the evening that up to 95 lives have been lost. Nusrat Rahimi, deputy spokesman for the MoI, said more than 150 people have been wounded.
There have been heartbreaking tragic scenes at the hospitals with large number of traumatized civilians gathering to find out their loved ones.
The Italian charity Emergency, where most of the victims were rushed to for urgent surgeries, was treating patients in the yard on the floor due to the overwhelming number of victims, including women and children.
Dejan Panic, Emergency coordinator in Afghanistan has pronounced the attack as “massacre”.
The brazen Taliban attack has been receiving widespread condemnations from the Afghan government as well as international community and humanitarian groups particularly for the militants’ use of ambulance in this terrorist attack and claiming so many civilian lives.
Denouncing the ‘inhuman and barbaric terrorism’ against civilians, President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani has stated Afghanistan is facing an imposed war by terrorist groups whose hideouts and places of support are known.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg strongly condemned the attack, reiterating the Alliance's support to counter terrorism campaign in Afghanistan.
"Appalled by the barbaric attack in Kabul. I strongly condemn this terrorist act. My thoughts are with the victims, their families and the Afghan people. NATO stands with Afghanistan in our common fight against terrorism," Stoltenberg said in a twitter message.
The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) also condemned the attack in the “civilian-populated area of Kabul”.
“I am particularly disturbed by credible reports that the attackers used a vehicle painted to look like an ambulance, including bearing the distinctive medical emblem, in clear violation of international humanitarian law,” Tadamichi Yamamoto, head of the UNAMA said in a statement.
The International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) has dubbed the attack as ‘unacceptable and unjustifiable’. “The use of an ambulance in today’s attack in Kabul is harrowing. This could amount to perfidy under International Humanitarian Law”.
A large number of victims are civilians, including children. The attack comes a week after five Taliban militants stormed the iconic Intercontinental Hotel in the city, killing more than 20 local and foreign guests staying in the capital’s fortified green zone.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed claimed responsibility for the attack.
He also claimed two similar suicide car bombings in the restive southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar on Saturday that caused multiple casualties.
* Sorwar Alam from Ankara contributed to the story.
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UPDATE 2 - Suicide car bombing in Kabul kills more than 90
UPDATES DEATH TOLL; ADDS CONDEMNATIONS