ISLAMABAD - Afghan officials said the death toll from Tuesday’s Taliban suicide attack in Kabul has risen to at least 64, adding another 347 people were injured.
The latest casualty figures indicate the Tuesday attack was the deadliest insurgent strike in the Afghan capital since the Taliban was ousted from power in 2001.
Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi told a news conference in Kabul Wednesday a high-powered investigation is still underway to determine the circumstances leading to the deadly assault in a high security zone.
The attack targeted an office of the National Directorate of Security (NDS), the Afghan intelligence agency located in the middle of the city, not far from the presidential palace and the sprawling American embassy.
Officials said the ensuing intense gunfight between the assailants and Afghan security forces, which lasted for several hours, left all the attackers dead, with some blowing themselves up.
Sediqqi said investigations are under way to determine details about the number of attackers but admitted security lapses led to the deadly assault.
A Taliban spokesman swiftly claimed responsibility, saying three heavily armed suicide bombers conducted the raid, calling it “one of the brutal and inhuman organs” of the Kabul government.
The spokesman said one of the bombers detonated his explosives-packed minibus in a parking lot outside NDS's VIP Protection Unit Department, making way for the other two to enter the building.
Sediqqi said initial investigations suggest the coordinated attack was jointly conducted by the Taliban and the militant Haqqani network.
The deadly attack is being widely condemned by Afghan and world leaders.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani condemned the attack "in the strongest possible terms," saying it "clearly shows the enemy's defeat in the face-to-face battle" with Afghan security forces.
During a White House briefing in Washington Tuesday, Press Secretary Josh Earnest called the suicide bombings a “cowardly attack on Afghan forces and civilians.” He said the United States remains committed to supporting the Afghan people and government.
The United Nations Security Council also condemned "in the strongest terms the terrorist attack" in Kabul, expressing in a written statement their deep sympathy and condolences to the families of the victims and to the people and government of Afghanistan.
"The members of the Security Council underlined the need to bring perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of these reprehensible acts of terrorism to justice," the statement said.
It urged all states, in accordance with their obligations under international law and relevant Security Council resolutions, to cooperate actively with the Afghan authorities.