ISLAMABAD - A suicide car bomb Saturday ripped through a crowded area outside a government building in Kabul, Afghanistan, killing at least 95 people and wounding more than 163 others.
The Health Ministry confirmed the casualty toll.
Thick, dark smoke could be seen rising into the sky from the central part of the capital following the explosion near the old Afghan Interior Ministry building, witnesses said. An Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman, Nasrat Rahimi, said the bomber used an explosives-filled ambulance to carry out the attack in an area where civilians had gathered in large numbers.
The Taliban instantly took responsibility for plotting the attack. A spokesman for the insurgent group said the target was a crowd of personnel with the Afghan security force.
The White House released a statement later Saturday condemning the attack.
"This murderous attack renews our resolve and that of our Afghan partners. The Taliban's cruelty will not prevail.The United States is committed to a secure Afghanistan that is free from terrorists who would target Americans, our allies, and anyone who does not share their wicked ideology," the statement said.
The U.S. State Department also released a statement, saying, "The Taliban's use of an ambulance as a weapon to target civilians represents inhumane disregard for the people of Afghanistan and all those working to bring peace to the country, and is a violation of the most basic international norms. We commend all the emergency services personnel for their courageous actions in responding to this terrorist attack."
Both statements said all countries who support Afghanistan should take "decisive action" to stop the Taliban and terror groups who support them.
The United Sates envoy in Afghanistan denounced the attack as "senseless and cowardly."
“Our thoughts are with the victims and their families. My government and I stand with the brave people of Afghanistan,” an official statement quoted U.S. Ambassador to Kabul John Bass as saying.
Tadamichi Yamamoto, head of the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, also condemned the attack, calling it "nothing short of an atrocity, and those who have organized and enabled it must be brought to justice and held to account."
Pakistan denounces bombing
Neighboring Pakistan, accused of sheltering the Taliban, also condemned the deadly bombing as a "dastardly terrorist attack" and sympathized the families of the victims.
"No cause or ends justify acts of terrorism against innocent people. We emphasize the need for concerted efforts and effective cooperation among the states to eradicate the scourge of terrorism," said a Foreign Ministry statement in Islamabad.
Pakistan denies allegations it is allowing insurgents group to use its soil for violence in Afghanistan.
The deadly bombing came a week after five heavily armed Taliban suicide bombers stormed Kabul’s Intercontinental Hotel in a highly secured part of the city. The raid killed at least 22 people, including 14 foreigners. At least four Americans were among the dead.
Back-to-back attacks in heavily guarded parts of the city have raised severe criticism of the authorities for failing to prevent the violence.
"Over the years -- this area has been attacked by suicide bombers ... constant intelligence and security failures, which should not be acceptable by any stretch of imagination. A national debate must start on how we can get this right," Bilal Sarwary, senior Afghan journalist, wrote on his official Twitter account.
Saturday’s blast came just hours after a suicide bomber detonated his explosives-filled car outside a military base in the restive southern province of Helmand. The explosion in the Nad Ali district wounded at least six government forces, officials said.