UPDATE: 5:11 a.m. EDT — The death toll from the car suicide bombing in Kabul rose to 28, Agence France-Presse tweeted, citing a police chief. The attack also injured 327 people and is the first major attack by Taliban since the group announced its new spring offensive.
#BREAKING Death toll jumps to 28 in Kabul attack: police chief
— AFP news agency (@AFP) April 19, 2016
UPDATE: 4:21 a.m. EDT — At least seven people were killed in Kabul during the suicide bomb attack on Tuesday, Agence France-Presse reported, citing officials, adding that 327 people were injured in the attack. Taliban, which recently announced the onset of its “spring offensive” in Afghanistan, has taken responsibility for the attack.
A suicide car bomber blew himself up in Kabul Tuesday in an area near the defense ministry and the U.S. embassy in the city, killing several people and injuring 198 people, according to TOLO News, a local news network. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack that comes just a week after Taliban announced the start of its spring offensive.
#KabulBlast - President Ashraf Ghani condemns the incident, labels it a terrorist attack
— TOLOnews (@TOLOnews) April 19, 2016
The report by TOLO News cited Ismael Kawosi, head of the media department at the ministry of public health, to say that the injured were taken to nearby hospitals. Kawosi did not provide a number for the people killed in the attack.
A report by the Associated Press (AP) said the attack was followed by gunfire and the area was surrounded by security forces. President Ashraf Ghani also said that several people were killed and injured in the blast that reportedly targeted offices of the country’s main security agency, the Guardian reported. A thick plume of smoke was seen rising from the area after the explosion.
Al Jazeera reported that the explosion took place during a time when the area is typically busy. The report also cited a spokesman for an emergency hospital in Kabul to say that the facility received eight lightly injured Afghan soldiers.
“What we know from police sources is that a suicide bomber, who was driving a vehicle with explosives, detonated himself targeting a convoy of Afghan army near the defense ministry building,” a reporter for Al Jazeera said from Kabul, adding: “Witnesses are telling us the attack was followed by some gunfire. The Afghan police believe there could be a number of attackers in one of the buildings nearby.”
The Al Jazeera report cited the U.S. embassy and said it was not affected by the explosion, while the NATO military coalition also said it was unaffected. The Guardian report added that warning sirens blared from the U.S. embassy compound, which lies close to the NATO mission’s headquarters in the country.
TOLO News reported that the attack targeted a secret service unit that protects important officials. A reporter for the news network also said that special forces arrived at the location and that fighting was ongoing. The Presidential Palace condemned the attack “in the strongest possible terms” and without giving an exact figure, also added that there were casualties in the attack.
During its warning for the spring offensive, known as Operation Omari, Taliban had said, according to the Guardian, that it would “employ large-scale attacks on enemy positions across the country.” Operation Omari began in memory of the movement’s late founder Mullah Omar, who was announced dead last year.