Dozens Killed And Hundreds Injured In Kabul Suicide Attack

A huge blast during the morning rush hour killed dozens and injured hundreds in Kabul Tuesday morning. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. The Afghan capital was already on high alert following reports last week that suicide bombers were in the city and planning aggressive actions. Tuesday's explosion — reportedly a car bomb — occurred outside the offices of an elite security force known for protecting high-level government officials, just a few hundred meters away from the presidential palace.

At least 28 people were killed and 320 were injured, making it the most deadly attack in the capital since 2011. Those numbers are expected to climb. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani condemned the attacks "in the strongest possible terms," according to a statement from his office, saying it "martyred and injured a number of Afghan innocent civilians." On Twitter he tried to paint the Afghan security forces as the victors, noting "the enemy's defeat in face-to-face battle."

Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid issued a statement as well, claiming a "truck full of explosives" had been detonated. The New York Times reported that the blast could be felt around the city and was immediately followed by gunfire. Police officials said that militants entered the facility after the blast went off, as the Taliban claimed, but there were conflicting reports. Police Chief Gen. Abdul Rahman Rahimi said that just one militant had entered, and he was later gunned down.

The Guardian reported that the attack may have been timed to coincide with the Taliban's launch of its spring offensive, announced last week. Shortly after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visited the country to reaffirm support for President Ghani, the Taliban announced that they would return to "jihad against the aggressive and usurping infidel army" in order to win independence and reestablish an "Islamic system." The threats included "assassinations of enemy commanders in urban centers," as well as suicide and tactical attacks. Tuesday's attack may fit all those criteria and more.

Some of the dead are soldiers and security officers, but the majority were civilians. The bombing took place in Pul-e-Mahmud, a busy neighborhood where schools, mosques, and businesses sit close to the Ministry of Defense and other military sites. The attack comes at a difficult time for the country, which has seen the Taliban grow in power since the U.S. and other NATO-backed forces left in 2014. At one point in September, the nation's fifth-largest city was even controlled by the Taliban. Since then, foreign fighters have bolstered its ranks even further.

The U.S. Embassy condemned the attacks. "Afghanistan deserves peace and security, not attacks that victimize parents taking their children to school, workers on their morning commute, and people who have stepped forward to help defend their fellow citizens," a statement read. Both the embassy and NATO mission's headquarters are not far from the blast site, but both said they were not affected.

The Afghan government — as well as Pakistan's — had been hoping to resolve the 15-year conflict with the Taliban through peace talks. After Tuesday's developments, that seems further afield than ever.