Bombing in diplomatic area of Kabul kills 80, wounds scores

Afghan Municipality workers sweep a road in front of the German Embassy after a suicide attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, May 31, 2017. A massive explosion rocked a highly secure diplomatic area of Kabul on Wednesday morning, causing a big number of casualties and sending a huge plume of smoke over the Afghan capital. (AP Photos/Rahmat Gul)

KABUL, Afghanistan — A massive explosion rocked a highly secure diplomatic area of Kabul early this morning, killing 80 people and wounding as many as 350, an attack that left a scene of mayhem and destruction and sent a huge plume of smoke over the Afghan capital.

The target of the attack in the Wazir Akbar Khan area — which officials said was a suicide car bombing — was not immediately known, but Ismail Kawasi, spokesman of the public health ministry, said most of the casualties were civilians, including women and children.

It was one of the worst attacks Kabul had seen since the drawdown of foreign forces from the country at the end of 2014. The explosion also raised serious questions about the Afghan government’s ability to secure the war-battered nation.

Associated Press images from the scene showed the German Embassy and several other embassies located in the area heavily damaged. Germany, Japan and Pakistan said some of their embassy employees and staff were hurt in the explosion.

The BBC said a driver for the British broadcaster was killed and four of its journalists were wounded in the attack. Afghanistan’s private TOLO Television also reported a staffer killed; Germany said an Afghan security guard outside its embassy was among those killed.

The explosion took place at the peak of Kabul’s rush hour when roads are packed with worktime commuters. It went off close to a busy intersection in the Wazir Akbar Khan district, said Najib Danish, deputy spokesman for the Interior Ministry.