[UPDATE: Wednesday, May 31, 2017 - 5.50pm]
China’s foreign ministry says its embassy building in Kabul has been partly damaged in an explosion that rocked the Afghan capital’s heavily guarded diplomatic district earlier in the day.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters at a regularly scheduled media briefing on Wednesday that all embassy staff members were “safe and sound” and that there had been no reports of injured Chinese citizens.
Afghan officials have said a suicide car bombing killed 80 and wounded as many as 350.
Hua said China strongly condemned the attack and offered its condolences to the victims and their families. She told reporters that the Chinese government will be assessing the situation and considering additional safety measures.
[UPDATE: Wednesday, May 31, 2017 - 3.29pm] Afghan Interior Ministry says 64 people were killed, 320 wounded in the morning bombing in Kabul.
A huge explosion rocked a highly secure diplomatic area of Kabul on Wednesday morning, killing at least nine people and wounding as many as 90.
The target of the attack - which officials said was a suicide car bombing - was not immediately known but Ismail Kawasi, spokesman of the public health ministry, said most of those killed were civilians.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the blast. Both the Taliban and the Islamic State group have staged large-scale attacks in the Afghan capital in the past.
The explosion took place during rush hour when roads are packed with worktime commuters. It appeared to have gone off close to a busy intersection in the Wazir Akbar Khan district, but Najib Danish, deputy spokesman for the Interior Ministry, did not have a more precise location.
The neighbourhood is considered Kabul's safest area. As it is the site of the Foreign Ministry, the Presidential Palace, and numerous foreign embassies, the area is guarded by national security forces and protected by dozens of 10-foot-high walls
The blast was so strong that more than 30 vehicles were either destroyed or damaged at the site of the attack. “We don’t know at this moment what the target of the attack was,” said Danish.
Windows were shattered in shops, restaurants and other buildings up to a kilometre from the blast site.
Kawasi said the wounded were admitted to different Kabul hospitals.
Shortly after the explosion, all roads in the district were blocked off by Afghan security forces and helicopters were assigned to monitor the neighbourhood.
Last month, the Afghan Taliban announced the beginning of their spring attack, promising to build their political base in the country while focusing military assaults on the international coalition and Afghan security forces.
U.S. and Afghan forces have been battling the Taliban in the area for more than 15 years. The United States now has more than 8,000 troops in Afghanistan, training local forces and conducting counterterrorism operations. In the past year, they have largely concentrated on stopping a wave of attacks by the Taliban, who have captured key districts, such as Helmand province, which U.S. and British troops had fought bitterly to return to the government.