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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 June 2018

Afghanistan in mourning as ambulance bomb death toll crosses 100

Sunday declared day of national mourning for victims of Taliban attack in Kabul

Afghan men carry the coffin of one of the 103 victims of the bombing in Kabul on January 28, 2018, a day after the attack claimed by the Taliban. Omar Sobhani / Reuters
Afghan men carry the coffin of one of the 103 victims of the bombing in Kabul on January 28, 2018, a day after the attack claimed by the Taliban. Omar Sobhani / Reuters

Afghanistan declared a day of national mourning on Sunday as the death toll from Saturday's bombing in Kabul crossed 100.

"Unfortunately a number of wounded people have died in hospital. The number of martyrs is now 103 and wounded is 235," interior minister Wais Barmak said.

Most of those injured by the bomb hidden in an ambulance were men, a health ministry spokesman said earlier.

Saturday's lunchtime attack, claimed by the Taliban, caused panic in the Afghan capital and overwhelmed its hospitals.

Kabul remained on high alert as the presidential palace declared Sunday a national day of mourning, with flags flying at half-mast.

Central Kabul was unusually quiet on Sunday, a working day in Afghanistan, with little traffic and few people on the street.

Security checkpoints had been beefed up, particularly in the streets near the blast scene, as the city braced for the possibility of further violence.

A security alert issued on Sunday warned that ISIL - which claimed a deadly attack on Save the Children's office in Afghanistan's east on Wednesday - was planning to attack supermarkets and shops in Kabul frequented by foreigners.

US president Donald Trump called for "decisive action" against the Taliban after the bombing as other international leaders also condemned the attack.

Ordinary Afghans took to social media to express their anguish and sorrow at rapidly worsening security as the Taliban and ISIL militants step up attacks on Kabul, turning it into one of the deadliest places in Afghanistan for civilians.

"We are so heartbroken in Kabul that we don't know how to start our new day," Freshta Karim wrote on Twitter.

"Shall we stay home or go to work, shall we meet our friends and cry or shall we force ourselves to create an illusion of hope? How are you starting your day in Kabul?"

Naser Danesh tweeted: "In Kabul starting a day without explosion, it would be a surprise. One could only imagine that kind of a day."

On Facebook, Naweed Qaderi wrote: "It is a big shame for the government, they repeatedly fail to protect people. The leaders must lose a son or daughter to feel the pain of poor people."

The blast happened in a crowded area of the city where several high-profile organisations including the European Union have offices.

The force of the explosion shook the windows of buildings hundreds of metres away and caused some low-rise structures nearby to collapse.

The scene of the attack was scattered with body parts, blood and debris. Children were among the wounded.

The government has blamed the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani Network, which Afghan and western officials suspect of involvement in at least some of the recent attacks in the capital.

The suicide bomber passed through at least one checkpoint in the ambulance, saying he was taking a patient to Jamhuriat hospital, an interior ministry spokesman said on Saturday.

"At the second checkpoint he was recognised and blew [up] his explosive-laden car," Nasrat Rahimi said.

Mr Rahimi told a news conference later that four suspects had been arrested.

The attack came exactly a week after Taliban insurgents stormed Kabul's landmark Intercontinental hotel and killed at least 25 people, the majority of them foreigners.

But there is still confusion over the true toll from that attack with conflicting figures given by officials and Afghan media reporting higher numbers.

Some foreign organisations are reassessing their presence in Afghanistan following the spate of deadly violence.

Sources said the Aga Khan Foundation was withdrawing its foreign staff from the country, while at least one western humanitarian group is moving its foreign staff to other cities in Afghanistan.

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Read more:

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ISIL attack leads Save the Children to halt Afghanistan aid effort

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