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Truck bomb kills 90 in attack near Kabul diplomatic quarter

By Rahim Faiez

A suicide attacker has targeted a highly secure diplomatic area of Kabul with a truck bomb, killing 90 people and wounding up to 400.

The bomber drove into the Afghan capital's diplomatic quarter during the morning rush hour, leaving behind a bloody scene of chaos and destruction in one of the worst attacks since the scale-down of foreign forces from the country in 2014.

Most of the casualties were civilians, including women and children, said Ismail Kawasi, spokesman for the public health ministry.

The dead also included Afghan security guards at the facilities, including the US Embassy, while 11 American contractors were wounded. However, they do not have life-threatening injuries, a US State Department official said.

Ambulance driver Alef Ahmadzai said: "I have been to many attacks, taken wounded people out of many blast sites, but I can say I have never seen such a horrible attack as this morning. Everywhere was on fire and so many people were in critical condition."

Nobody has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, which came in the first week of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The Taliban flatly denied any involvement in an email to news outlets and condemned all attacks against civilians.

The explosives were hidden in a tanker truck used to clean out septic systems, said Najib Danish, deputy spokesman for the interior minister.

The number of dead and wounded was provided by the Afghan government's media centre, citing a statement from the Afghan Ulema Council - the country's top religious body that includes Muslim clerics, scholars and men of authority in religion and law.

The blast formed a crater about five metres deep near Zanbaq Square in the Wazir Akbar Khan district, where foreign embassies are protected by a battery of their own security personnel, as well as Afghan police and national security forces. The nearby German Embassy was heavily damaged.

Also in the area is Afghanistan's foreign ministry, the presidential palace and its intelligence and security headquarters.

"The terrorists, even in the holy month of Ramadan, the month of goodness, blessing and prayer, are not stopping the killing of our innocent people," said President Ashraf Ghani.

The war in Afghanistan, the longest ever involving US troops, has shown no sign of letting up.

Also, with Islamic State now also having a presence in the country, things have became more volatile.

The stricken neighbourhood was considered Kabul's safest, with the embassies protected by dozens of 10-foot-high blast walls and government offices guarded by security forces. More than 50 cars were also either destroyed or damaged.

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