Blast kills at least 5 outside Afghan Foreign Ministry in Kabul



ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — An explosion outside the Foreign Ministry in the Afghan capital has killed at least five people and injured more than 40, with higher casualty numbers feared, according to a Taliban police spokesman and a nearby hospital.

“The death toll is still rising,” warned Stefano Sozza, country director for Italian NGO Emergency, which runs a hospital in Kabul. Hospital staff have set up beds in the facility’s kitchens and canteen to accommodate the more than 40 people injured in the blast, Sozza said in a statement.

The five killed in the blast were civilians, police spokesman Khalid Zadran tweeted. He did not specify the number of wounded but previously said security teams had arrived at the site to investigate. Other Taliban officials refused repeated requests to comment on reports of higher death tolls.

The blast occurred in central Kabul on one of the city’s most fortified streets, which is home to government ministries and other senior Taliban offices. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.

The explosion is the latest in a number of bombings that have targeted Taliban and foreign officials in the Afghan capital in recent months. Earlier this month, a bombing targeted the military side of Kabul’s international airport.

Last month, a blast struck the Pakistani Embassy in Kabul, and gunmen attacked a hotel frequented by international business executives, leaving five people dead.

In October, a bombing struck the Interior Ministry, and a blast outside the Russian Embassy killed six people in September.

The Islamic State group in Afghanistan has claimed responsibility for the past attacks. The group has been active in Afghanistan for years and carried out massive bombings while the previous government controlled the country.

Wednesday’s attack is one of the largest to hit Kabul in the past year, Sozza said. “This is the first mass casualty in 2023, but certainly one of those with the most patients since the beginning of 2022.”

Emergency hospitals in Afghanistan specialize in treating war wounded. Last year, the surgical center in Kabul handled 29 “mass casualty incidents,” a term that can refer to large bombings and other types of deadly attacks.

The United Nations mission to Afghanistan cited the reports of “numerous” casualties including civilians in Wednesday’s attack in a tweet condemning the violence.

“Rising insecurity is of grave concern,” the mission added.

The Taliban has pledged higher levels of security under its rule, but the recent bombings raise serious concerns about the group’s ability to secure the country.

Haq Nawaz Khan in Peshawar, Pakistan, contributed to this report.

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