At least 28 killed, 327 injured in Kabul suicide blast claimed by Taliban

A huge explosion has rocked Kabul close to the US embassy, and several Afghan government ministries and security agencies. At least 28 people have been killed in the attack, AFP cited local police chief, while the Health Ministry confirmed 327 injured.

Reports of the number of injured vary. According to Pajhwok Afghan News, at least 100 people were wounded in the attack. Tolo news cited officials from Afghan Health Ministry who confirmed that some 198 people were injured in the Kabul suicide bombing. 

The casualties are expected to rise, Health Ministry spokesman Ismail Kawosi told Reuters, adding that civilians and Afghan security soldiers were among those killed and injured in the attack.

"Today's terrorist attack near the Puli Mahmood Khan area of Kabul City shows the clear defeat of the enemy in the face-to-face fight against Afghan security forces," the Afghan presidential palace said in a statement on Twitter.

At least eight Afghan soldiers suffered minor injuries in the blast, a spokesman for an emergency hospital in Kabul said, Reuters reported.

Ghani slammed the attack “in the strongest possible terms,” adding that the offices of Afghanistan's main security agency were the target.

Photos have emerged showing plumes of smoke rising over the city center. According to Afghan Tolo news, a suicide bomber detonated explosive-laden vehicle outside Afghan Secret Service unit. The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the suicide attack, Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the militant group said, as cited by AP. 

A separate statement on the Taliban’s website said that a suicide car bomber blew himself up in front of the office of National Directorate of Security, Reuters reported. The group claimed that Taliban fighters, including more suicide bombers, had entered the compound.

The blast took place in Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood, one of the most affluent districts in the Afghan capital, a few hundred meters from the presidential palace, known as Arg. Also major Afghan security agencies, including the headquarters of the International Security Assistance Force and the Defense Ministry, are located in the area.

Eyewitnesses told the news agency they heard gunfire over half an hour after the explosion. The gunfire was also confirmed by police.

The US embassy and NATO headquarters said they were not affected by the blast.

The explosion took place a week after the Taliban announced its spring offensive, pledging to launch operations against government strongholds and guerrilla attacks to drive Afghanistan's government from power. Dubbed “Operation Omari” – after the late Taliban founder Mullah Mohammad Omar – the offensive will also include assassinations, the Islamist group said in a statement.