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Kabul reels after deadly truck bombing

Afghan residents stand near a damaged building near the site of a truck bomb attack in Kabul on May 31, 2017.<br />At least 80 people were killed and hundreds wounded May 31 when a massive truck bomb ripped through Kabul’s diplomatic quarter, bringing carnage to the streets of the Afghan capital and shattering windows hundreds of metres away. / AFP PHOTO / WAKIL KOHSAR

Kabul was reeling Thursday from its deadliest attack since 2001, with anguished residents burying their dead as authorities cleared away mangled wreckage and public anger mounted over the government’s failure to protect citizens in the heart of the capital.

No group has so far claimed Wednesday’s attack, launched from a sewage tanker packed with explosives, which tore a massive crater in the ground and killed at least 90 people, mainly civilians, while wounding hundreds.

Angry citizens demanded answers from the government over the perceived intelligence failure leading to the assault, which underscores spiralling insecurity in Afghanistan.

“For how long will we have to tolerate this bloodshed in our country?” a sobbing resident asked on local Tolo News.

“I have lost my brother in the blast and the government is constantly failing to provide us with security.”

The brazen attack during the holy month of Ramadan highlighted the ability of militants to strike even in the capital’s most secure district, home to the presidential palace and foreign embassies that are enveloped in a maze of concrete blast walls.

Authorities swept off debris and shards of glass littered across the streets, and cleared away the charred carcasses of blown-up vehicles, as shocked residents prepared for funeral ceremonies.

With more than 400 people wounded, the injured spilled over into hospital hallways as huge crowds gathered outside waiting for news of their loved ones or searching for still missing relatives.

Health officials warned some victims may never be identified as their bodies were torn into pieces or burned beyond recognition.

Global outrage swelled over the massive blast, the deadliest single attack in Kabul since the Taliban were toppled from power in a 2001 US-led invasion.

US President Donald Trump told his Afghan counterpart Ashraf Ghani in a phone call that the timing of the attack during Ramadan underscores “the barbaric nature of the terrorists who are enemies of all civilised peoples”.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed his “abhorrence” at the strike.

The lights at the Eiffel Tower were switched off on Wednesday night to honour the scores of victims. The monument’s lights had already been turned off on Tuesday after suicide blasts in Baghdad killed at least 42.

– Kabul deadly for civilians –
Afghanistan’s intelligence agency has blamed the Taliban-allied Haqqani Network for Wednesday’s attack.

The Taliban — currently in the midst of their annual “spring offensive” — denied they were involved. The insurgent group rarely claims responsibility for attacks that kill large numbers of civilians.

The Islamic State group has had no such compunctions, claiming responsibility for several deadly bombings in the Afghan capital, but so far has not issued a claim in Wednesday’s blast.

The explosion, which Kabul residents compared to an earthquake, damaged several embassies in the area, which houses diplomatic and government buildings and is replete with check points and armed security guards.

At least 11 Afghan guards working for the US embassy were among those killed and 11 American citizens working as contractors in Kabul were among the wounded, US officials have said.

Germany said an Afghan guard had been killed at its embassy, which was “in the immediate vicinity” of the attack, while several other countries also reported damage to their missions.

Frequent mass casualty attacks made the city the deadliest place in Afghanistan for civilians in the first quarter of 2017, according to the United Nations.

Afghan troops backed by US and NATO forces have been struggling t beat back the insurgents, and the White House is considering sending thousands more soldiers to break the deadlock in the battle against the Taliban.

US troops in Afghanistan number about 8,400 now, and there are another 5,000 from NATO allies. They mainly serve in an advisory capacity — a far cry from the US presence of more than 100,000 six years ago.

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