Truck Bomb in Kabul Kills At Least 50
A massive truck bomb exploded Wednesday morning in the diplomatic section of Afghanistan's capital, killing at least 50 people and wounding over 320 others, a health ministry spokesman told VOA.
The blast ripped through the central Wazir Akbar Khan area of Kabul, home to foreign diplomatic missions and government offices, damaging dozens of vehicles and surrounding buildings. Initial reports said the explosives were hidden in a water tanker.
Afghan officials say the casualty figures are likely to rise.
The target of the massive bombing was not immediately clear. It happened in an area not far from the German embassy. However, the explosion mostly devastated a nearby building, housing the main office of Roshan, the leading telecommunications service provider in Afghanistan.
Afghan security forces swiftly cordoned off the area and international troops also have arrived at the site to assist in rescue efforts. There were no immediate claims of responsibility for what residents in Kabul said appeared to be one of the deadliest bombings in years.
Wednesday's attack comes amid intensified deadly Taliban attacks on Afghan forces while loyalists of Islamic State have also conducted terrorist strikes against high-profile targets in recent months in and outside Kabul.
The latest violence also comes as President Ashraf Ghani is set to host a conference of neighboring and regional countries in Kabul next week to discuss ways to end an increasingly deadly Afghan conflict.
UN: 200,000 Iraqis Could Flee Mosul in Coming Days
The United Nations said Tuesday that 200,000 Iraqi civilians could flee an Islamic State-controlled part of Mosul in the coming days.
The Iraqi government on Thursday urged civilians in the Old City of Mosul to flee their homes and cross to safety on the other side of government lines.
"When they issued this new instruction it represented a dramatic change and shift from the guidance that they had been previously providing," said Lise Grande, the U.N.'s top humanitarian official in Iraq.
She said there are three neighborhoods to the north of the Old City, as well as the Old City itself, where the civilians are trapped.
"We are deeply concerned about the safety of these civilians," Grande told reporters by video link from Baghdad. "We feel those civilians are probably at greater risk now than at any stage of the entire campaign."
She noted that the evacuation notice is not compulsory, and the Iraqi Security Forces would protect civilians who remain in the Old City.
When the military offensive to re-take Mosul began in the eastern part of the city last October, the U.N. feared a mass exodus of as many as 700,000 civilians. It did not happen, as a half-million residents stayed in their homes and rode out the fighting.
But when the army began liberating the western part of the city, residents fled at a much higher rate. Grande says 774,000 Iraqis have left Iraq's second largest city, which has been under IS control since 2014. The U.N. is providing assistance to all of them, as well as the half-million east Mosul residents who remained in their homes.