KABUL, May 31 (Reuters) - A powerful bomb hidden in a sewage tanker exploded in the morning rush hour in the centre of Kabul on Wednesday, killing at least 80 people, wounding hundreds more and damaging embassy buildings in the Afghan capital's unofficial "Green Zone".
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast, which came amid the Taliban's annual spring offensive. Men and women struggled to get through security checkpoints to search for loved ones.
A towering plume of smoke rose from the area, which eyewitnesses said, was littered with strewn bodies and dozens of cars choking the roads as wounded survivors and panicked schoolgirls running for cover. But the attack suggests a major security failure and underscores spiralling insecurity in Afghanistan, where the NATO-backed military, beset by soaring casualties and desertions, is struggling to beat back insurgents. Over a third of the country is outside government control. The terrorist attack in Afghanistan's capital Kabul has claimed the lives of 90 people, and almost 400 were wounded, the country's healthcare ministry said. The office of the president's statement on the attack called on Muslim states "to ramp up pressure on those supporting terrorist outfits so that terrorism should not be used as an instrument against other countries".
The Taliban - now in the midst of their annual "spring offensive" - tweeted that they were not involved and "strongly condemn" the blast.
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Even though the Taliban claim they are only waging war against the Kabul government and foreign forces in Afghanistan, most casualties of their attacks have been civilians.
WATCH: Security and emergency services rushed on Wednesday to the site of a massive vehicle bomb in Afghanistan's capital, which authorities say killed at least 80 people.
It was one of the worst attacks Kabul has seen since the drawdown of foreign forces at the end of 2014. Civil society activists have launched campaigns to donate much needed blood for the victims. An Afghan security guard there was killed and the building was also badly damaged.
"It is with great sadness that the BBC can confirm the death of BBC Afghan driver Mohammed Nazir following the vehicle bomb in Kabul earlier today, as he was driving journalist colleagues to the office", the BBC said in a statement.
The Afghan ministry of foreign affairs also slammed the attack and said that by creating such carnage, the perpetrators will not reach their "ugly goals".
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The blast, close to the city's diplomatic enclave and the Presidential Palace, was so intense that it shook the ground and shattered glass in various parts of the city.
Their injuries are not thought to be life-threatening.
Amnesty International welcomed the government's decision to halt flights in coming days but said it was reminder of how risky the situation was in Afghanistan. Zabihullah Mujahid, the group's spokesman, said in a statement, "Our countrymen must rest assured that the Kabul attack is not the work of Mujahideen".
Germany has been increasingly sending Afghans back to Afghanistan, as it argues a lot of the country is safe.
The blast was the latest in a series of attacks in the Afghan capital.
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Cruz said: "We have no evidence whatsoever that there was any cyber attack of any sort". He estimated the cost of the outage at 82 million euros ($91.6 million).
"The sad reality is that more foreign troops would not necessarily ensure these attacks happen less", Kugelman said.