Kabul: The Australian Embassy in Kabul was put into lockdown after a powerful car bomb exploded in the centre of Afghanistan’s capital. The blast sent clouds of black smoke spiralling over the centre of the city in an area near the presidential palace and foreign embassies, police said
Several people were killed and wounded in the blast near the fortified entrance to the German embassy on Wednesday, said Basir Mujahid a spokesman for Kabul police.
Afghan’s Health Ministry said at least nine people were killed and more than 90 were taken to hospital, with the death toll expected to rise.
News of the blast quickly reached Parliament House in Canberra, where the secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Frances Adamson, rushed out of a Senate estimates hearing to be briefed on the incident.
Australia does not make public the location of its embassy in Kabul for security reasons. Ms Adamson returned to the estimates hearing and said Australia’s diplomatic mission was in lockdown but she believed all staff were safe.
“It was a car bomb near the German embassy, but there are several other important compounds and offices near there too. It is hard to say what the exact target is,” Mujahid said.
Revised estimates said more than 100 were injured with more than 90 taken to Kabul hospitals following the powerful blast.
The explosion shattered windows and blew doors off their hinges in houses hundreds of metres away.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast. A spokesman for Taliban insurgents said he was gathering information.
Violence around Afghanistan has been rising throughout the year, as the Taliban push to defeat the US-backed government and reimpose Islamic law after their 2001 ouster in a Washington-backed invasion.
Since most international troops withdrew at the end of 2014, the Taliban have gained ground and now control or contest about 40 percent of the country, according to US estimates, though President Ashraf Ghani’s government holds all provincial centres.
US President Donald Trump is due to decide soon on a recommendation to send 3000 to 5000 more troops to bolster the small NATO training force and US counter-terrorism mission now totalling just over 10,000.
The commander of US forces in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson, told a congressional hearing earlier this year that he needed several thousand more troops to help Afghan forces break a “stalemate” with the Taliban.