7:30 a.m. (EST) UPDATE: Hugo Llorens, a key U.S. diplomat in Kabul, said the bombing on Wednesday was “horrific and shameful,” and that it “demonstrates these terrorists’ complete disregard for human life and their nihilistic opposition to the dream of a peaceful future for Afghanistan.”
America’s Special Chargé d’Affaires in Kabul was joined by officials at NATO’s Kabul headquarters in condemning the deadly explosion. Llorens offered his “deepest condolences to the families of all those killed and hope for the speedy recovery of the injured.”
The U.S. Embassy in Kabul is not located in the vicinity and remains unharmed.
7:20 a.m. (EST) UPDATE: Kabul residents said the explosion “felt like an earthquake” and was heard across the city. There are reports of shattered windows as far as a mile away from the epicenter.
Eyewitnesses at or near the site of the Kabul attack described chaotic scenes in the immediate aftermath of the explosion in Kabul’s diplomatic district. Fatima Faizi, a Kabul resident, told Al Jazeera that “[I have] not heard something this big before.”
Nabib Ahmad, who was near the blast site, said that “I couldn’t think clearly, there was a mess everywhere.” Meanwhile, another Kabul local, Mushtaq Rahim, said that he “was just 500m from the location of the explosion and it was so heavy that in every part of Kabul, people thought as if it was next to them.” He added that it felt like an earthquake.
“It was pretty strong. It felt like a tremor, like an earthquake in many parts of the city. As soon as the blast went off, one could see a huge amount of smoke coming from the area.”
7 a.m. (EST) UPDATE: The German Embassy has suffered extensive damage, and a local security guard that had been working at the Kabul-based embassy was killed.
India’s Kabul embassy has claimed “some damage to windows.”
According to the Japanese Foreign Ministry, two of its embassy staff stationed in Kabul sustained minor injuries during the attack. The Ministry also reported slight structural damage to the building.
Turkey’s Embassy in Kabul reported significant damage to their building, however, none of their employees were injured or killed. Turkey has pledged renewed military support for Afghanistan in the wake of the bombing.
6:50 a.m. (EST) UPDATE: The BBC has reported that four of its employees, as well as their Afghan driver, were victims in the Kabul attack. The four British journalists sustained non-life-threatening injuries, while the driver was killed. Mohammed Nazir was a father in his late thirties who had been working for the BBC in Kabul for four years.
Main Story: The diplomatic district of Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, was the site of a massive explosion on Wednesday morning, killing at least 80 civilians and injuring an estimated 350 more. CNN reports that the blast occurred in the vicinity of Kabul’s French and German embassies, but it is not clear at this stage what the motive was behind the attack.
Injured Kabul residents could be seen fleeing the site of the blast as a big black plume of smoke rose into the sky. Armed soldiers and Kabul’s emergency services have been flocking to the area to help the injured survivors. Kabul-based civilians who were not injured joined in the rescue efforts, pulling wounded people from the rubble.
The Interior Ministry determined that the source of the Kabul blast was a water tank filled with a “huge quantity of explosives,” as reported by The Washington Post. The explosion occurred during peak traffic on a bustling road in the Wazir Akbar Khan area of Kabul.
According to sources in Kabul that spoke to Aljazeera, the explosion – thought to be a suicide attack – was located in Kabul’s Zanbaq square that is surrounded by restaurants, shops, and the foreign embassies district. Apart from the embassies, the affected area in Kabul also hosts important local and international organizations. A key U.S. military base is also situated near the area.
A spokesperson for the Taliban, Zabihullah Mujahid, has confirmed that the group is not responsible for the Kabul attack.
Update: Explosion in Kabul reportedly few hundred meters from the US embassy. Dozens reportedly wounded according to local media pic.twitter.com/3lkrkS1okK— Warrior Reports (@WarriorReports) May 31, 2017
The nearest medical facility is Kabul’s Wazir Akbar Khan hospital, where scores of concerned families have gathered at the main entrance. They are reportedly angry and trying to get to their friends and family who were wounded in the attack.
Ambulances were reportedly racing to and from the hospital some carrying dead bodies and injured. Others were carrying charred bodily remains.
One of the relatives of victims, Mohammad Hassan, a Kabul resident who suffered minor head trauma, described the event to the Washington Post.
“I felt like it was an earthquake and after that I do not know what happened. All the staff around me, every one, was injured.”
BREAKING: A loud explosion has been heard in the Afghan capital of Kabul pic.twitter.com/ji47RboYrP— Warrior Reports (@WarriorReports) May 31, 2017
Explosion in Kabul, Afghanistan, near foreign embassies, reports Reuters pic.twitter.com/rr7cICMFyp— Warrior Reports (@WarriorReports) May 31, 2017
PHOTO: Some Windows of houses and offices near diplomatic area in Kabul have shattered as a result of the explosion pic.twitter.com/ZFWbnrE3yD— Warrior Reports (@WarriorReports) May 31, 2017
Video from the scene, posted on Twitter by a group called Warrior Reports, describing themselves as an “administration is dedicated to bringing you news coverage of events around the world that you won’t find anywhere else,” showed chaos in the wake of the explosion that tore through the heart of Kabul.
VIDEO: Moments after a powerful explosion from a suicide car bomb attack in Kabul that Afghan officials say has kill or wounded at least 50 pic.twitter.com/qlEgy4QkRN— Warrior Reports (@WarriorReports) May 31, 2017
A reporter for Aljazeera who is at the scene said that “Kabul has been very quiet for the past week, but police have confirmed to us that this was one of the biggest blasts Kabul has ever seen.”
If Kabul’s police are indeed correct that the detonation of the explosives originated in a water tank truck, the incident “is going to raise a lot of questions – not only among those diplomats living in the area but also Kabul’s regular residents.”
This is a developing story and will be updated as new information surfaces.
[Featured Image by Rahmat Gul/AP Images]