Ambulance bomb kills 95, wounds 158 in Kabul
Afghan volunteers help an injured men at the scene of a car bomb exploded in front of the old Ministry of Interior building in Kabul on January 27, 2018.
Kabul - The Taleban-claimed assault is the second carried out by the militant group in the Afghan capital in a week.
An explosives-packed ambulance blew up in a crowded area of Kabul on Saturday, killing at least 95 people and wounding 158 others, officials said, in one of the biggest blasts to rock the war-torn city in recent years.
The Taleban-claimed assault - the second carried out by the militant group in the Afghan capital in a week - triggered chaotic scenes as terrified survivors fled the area scattered with body parts and hospitals were overwhelmed by the large number of wounded.
It came as both the insurgents and the Daesh group have escalated their attacks on Kabul, one of the deadliest places in Afghanistan for civilians.
An AFP reporter saw "lots of dead and wounded" civilians in the Jamhuriat hospital, which is metres away from the blast and where medical staff struggled to treat the bloodied men, women and children lying on the floor in corridors.
"The latest toll has reached 95 dead and 158 wounded," Baryalai Hilali, the director of the government media centre, told reporters.
He warned the death toll might rise as some of the wounded brought to hospitals were in a "critical condition".
The blast happened in an area where several high-profile organisations, including the European Union, have offices. Members of the EU delegation in Kabul were in their "safe room" and there were no casualties, an official told.
The force of the explosion shook windows of buildings at least two kilometres (more than a mile) away and caused some low-rise structures in the immediate vicinity to collapse.
The suicide bomber passed through at least one checkpoint in the ambulance, saying he was taking a patient to Jamhuriat hospital, an interior ministry spokesman stated.
"At the second checkpoint he was recognised and blew his explosive-laden car," Nasrat Rahimi said.
Twenty minutes before the blast an AFP reporter saw police checking ambulances several hundred metres from the scene of the explosion, as the drivers and patients stood on the street. Ambulances are rarely checked in the city.
The Taleban used social media to claim responsibility for the attack, which comes exactly a week after its insurgents stormed Kabul's landmark Intercontinental hotel, killing at least 25 people, the majority foreigners.
Photos shared on social media purportedly of the blast, which the presidential palace quickly condemned as a "crime against humanity", showed a huge plume of smoke rising into the sky. Near the blast site civilians walked through debris-covered streets carrying wounded on their backs as others loaded several bodies at a time into ambulances and private cars to take them to medical facilities around the city.
The Italian NGO Emergency said seven dead and 70 wounded had been taken to its hospital, with its coordinator Dejan Panic tweeting that it had been a "massacre".A man told Ariana TV he had taken his wounded brother to Jamhuriat and Emergency hospitals but had been turned away.
"They are asking people with non-life threatening wounds to go to other hospitals," he said.
Aminullah, whose stationery shop is just metres from where the explosion happened, said the force of the explosion shook the foundations of his building. A man told Tolo News he was passing the area when the explosion happened.
"I heard a big bang and I fainted," he said, outside the Emergency hospital.
"There were dozens of people who were killed and wounded. There were pools of blood."