Blood and glass have lined the streets of Logar in Afghanistan’s east after a suicide bomber detonated a truck in a residential district.
Local authorities said the horrific attack targeted a heavily-populated guesthouse in the city on Friday night local time.
Interior ministry spokesman Tariq Arian confirmed at least 21 people had died with a further 91 injured. Speaking to media, Mr Arian revealed three people had been rescued from under the debris but feared more could be lost in the clutter.
“The roofs of houses have collapsed and people are trapped under the debris,” he said. “The security forces are trying to rescue those trapped.”
Mr Arian confirmed doctors and university students were among the casualties. Grainy footage of the aftermath has since been posted on social media, revealing several bloodied victims being carried away on stretchers.
Speaking to television cameras with a bandaged head, injured local Mohammed Nabi said the explosion struck his family while they were breaking their Ramadan fast.
“It was evening time, when we finished breaking our fast after we finished evening prayers,” he said via SBS.
“We sat back to eat dinner and suddenly the explosion happened. All the doors, windows and the roof fell down on us.”
Qazi Hamidulla Hamidi, District chief of Logar, said crisis responders were working around the clock to locate more wounded civilians.
“The excavators are working at the site of the incident, searching for survivors,” he said.
“We don’t know if we are going to find any more wounded or if all of them were martyred.”
Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani immediately placed the blame on the Taliban, although the terrorist organisation is yet to claim responsibility.
“The Taliban have once again shown that they are not only unwilling to resolve the current crisis peacefully and fundamentally, but are complicating the situation and wasting the opportunity for peace,” the Afghan president said in a statement.
The disturbing attack came just days after US President Joe Biden’s chief diplomat for peace negotiations insisted the government wouldn’t collapse once American troops left the country.
Mr Biden announced this month the US would begin to remove all of its 2500 ground troops from Afghanistan, aiming to completely vacate the region of its military by September 11th, the 20th anniversary of 9/11.
“I do not believe that the government is going to collapse and the Taliban is going to take over,” Zalmay Khalilzad, a special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation, said last week.
“I believe the choice that Afghans face is between a negotiated political settlement or a long war.”
But a Threat Assessment from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released April 9 said “the Afghan government will struggle to hold the Taliban at bay if the coalition withdraws support”, warning the terrorist organisation would likely “make gains” without the US military in the way.
“Kabul continues to face setbacks on the battlefield, and the Taliban is confident it can achieve military victory,” the report said.
“Afghan forces continue to secure major cities and other government strongholds, but they remain tied down in defensive missions and have struggled to hold recaptured territory or re-establish a presence in areas abandoned in 2020.”